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How Does IVF Work
Fertility Specialist
2021-03-29

How Does IVF Work

Many people will currently be considering IVF treatment in the UK in order to expand their families and have the children they’ve always wanted. But how does IVF work, exactly? How long will the procedure take? These are questions we’re often asked at GENNET City Fertility, and we have put together this expert guide on IVF treatment to help provide some of the answers.

Read on if you wish to find out more about this type of fertility treatment, or get in touch with us today if you’d like to book a consultation with a professional. This can also be a free mini consultation if you’d prefer to get to know our consultant and our clinic.

What is IVF Treatment?

In-vitro fertilisation, also commonly called IVF, is one of the most popular and regularly used treatments for those struggling with conceiving. In its most basic terms, IVF involves removing eggs from a patient and mixing these with their partner’s sperm or a donor’s sperm to create embryos. These are then placed inside the intended parent’s womb in the hopes of them carrying a successful pregnancy to term.

IVF was first developed 40 years ago in order to bypass damaged or blocked Fallopian tubes, with the first successful birth coming from a natural cycle in 1978. Louise Brown, the first person to ever be conceived through IVF, was born at Oldham General Hospital in Lancashire, UK, on 25 July that year.

Since this time, the practice has only grown and developed, helping many more patients across the globe to expand their own families. According to the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine, approximately 2% of children born in the UK today are conceived through IVF treatments and technology.

Types of IVF Treatment

There is more than one type of IVF treatment available in the UK for patients looking to start their families. The one that will be used for their treatment all depends on their particular circumstances.

When you choose to speak to one of our specialists about carrying out a fertility treatment, they will be able to discuss each of these options with you. Together, you will decide what is best for your particular circumstances.

Stimulated or Conventional IVF

Stimulated IVF, which is also known as Conventional IVF, is a form of fertility treatment which works by using specific drugs to obtain multiple eggs from a patient. These eggs are then used to create multiple embryos, some of which will then be frozen and stored for future use (should the patient need to try again, or if they decide they want their first child to have a sibling). 

The fertility medications taken by patients in this process are used to stimulate the ovaries, ensuring the growth and maturity of the follicles which produce eggs. Multiple follicles will be kept under observation through ultrasounds and bloodwork at this time.

Once the follicles have reached a certain size, they are then collected in a procedure known as egg retrieval, or egg collection. This is always performed under sedation anaesthesia, and the retrieved eggs will then be mixed with the chosen sperm sample. 

The embryos that result from this mix will then be allowed to grow and develop until the monitoring embryologist has found the ones which are most suitable for an embryo transfer. This is the procedure in which an embryo will be transferred back into the patient’s uterus.

Mild IVF

This form of IVF treatment works in a similar way to Stimulated IVF, and may also be called Mild Stimulation IVF for this reason. During the process, stimulating drugs will be used to collect between 2 and 10 eggs for fertilisation. However, these drugs will be given at a lower dosage and for a shorter duration period.

Natural Cycle IVF

Natural IVF works differently to Mild and Conventional IVF treatments because it does not use drugs or medication to stimulate follicle growth. Instead, it relies on the natural selection of the follicle. This means that the patient’s own body will decide what is best; it will naturally select the best egg available for the cycle and when this egg is mature (around the 10th - 12th day of the patient’s menstrual cycle) a fertility specialist will collect it. 

Once collected, the egg will then be fertilised by their partner’s sperm or donor sperm. Two or three days after this, the resulting embryo will be placed into the patient’s uterus, with a pregnancy test being carried out two weeks later. The entire process is based on the natural menstrual cycle of the patient, and there will be little to no drug use throughout. There will also be a very low chance of multiple pregnancies when a patient chooses this treatment.

How IVF Works

When considering IVF treatment, you may wonder how the process will be carried out. After all, it is a procedure that you will be choosing to have carried out on your body. This is why we are always prepared to answer the question “How does IVF work?”. 

Below, we have provided a comprehensive guide to the Conventional IVF process, as this is more often the treatment our patients require. It also takes you through every possible step of the procedure.

Ovarian Stimulation

When a patient receives treatment in the UK, the procedure will begin with ovarian stimulation. This involves giving the patient a hormone injection, which stimulates their ovaries enabling recruitment or large number of follicles and increasing the chances of retrieving those eggs. 

After approximately 9 to 14 days of stimulation, a final injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) or gonadotropin releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa), called the trigger injection, will then be given. This should take place between 35 to 36 hours before the egg collection process.

Egg Collection

An egg retrieval procedure for Conventional or Mild IVF treatments should take place under mild sedation anaesthesia. The process will normally take around 15 to 20 minutes. The eggs are retrieved by aspirating the follicles using a vaginal ultrasound probe.

Mixing the Eggs and Sperm

After the patient’s eggs have been collected, they will be mixed with either the sperm provided by their partner or by a donor of their choice. The morning after this takes place, a specialist embryologist will assess the eggs for any signs of fertilisation. 

Experts will see this happening when the cells begin to divide, splitting from one cell into two, then four, then eight, and so on until it reaches the blastocyst stage. 

The Embryo Transfer

Three to five days after the embryo has been declared viable, it should be transferred into the womb of the intended parent. This will be done using a thin tube called a catheter, which is passed into the patient’s vagina and through the cervix. The embryo is released in the middle of the cavity of the womb. 

The number of embryos that will be transferred may depend on how old the patient is, and will be discussed before any treatment process is started and once again prior to the embryo transfer procedure. 

After the Procedure

14 days after the embryo transfer procedure, the fertility clinic should perform a blood pregnancy test to see if the process has been successful.

If there are any unused, good quality embryos left over from the fertilisation procedure, they can be cryopreserved (frozen) for use in the future.

IVF Success Rates

How successful the IVF process will be can vary, depending on the patient and their individual circumstances. The age of the patient is often a key factor in the success of the procedure, and an NHS study carried out between 2014 and 2016 showed that the percentage of live birth rates from IVF treatment were as follows:

  • 29% for patients under the age of 35

  • 23% for patients aged 35 to 37

  • 15% for patients aged 38 to 39

  • 9% for patients aged 40 to 42

  • 3% for patients aged 43 to 44

  • 2% for patients aged 45 or older

How Long Does IVF Take to Work?

Unfortunately, there is no set time frame for how long it takes for IVF to work. One cycle of the procedure will take about three weeks, but it isn’t possible to say if the first cycle of the treatment will be enough to get a patient pregnant. This is why the aim is to collect several eggs and to create surplus embryos and freeze them for future use in case of unsuccessful cycle. 

Are You Ready to Begin IVF Treatment in the UK?

If you would like to speak with an experienced and understanding fertility clinic about beginning an IVF cycle, contact us today. We will be happy to help you on your planned journey to parenthood and can set up a consultation with a specialist on a day which suits your needs best. 

Dr Malini Uppal
Fertility Specialist

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