A typical IVF journey, whether it is for the first time or trying again, can also be called a ‘stimulated cycle’. This is because your treatment will involve taking drugs that stimulate your body so we can collect a number of eggs for fertilisation.
Your referral may come from your GP or hospital doctor, or you can self-refer. Learn more about the referrals process.
Preliminary fertility assessment tests and screening
To make the best decision about your treatment in the consultation, your doctor needs the results of some tests. There may be a combination of blood tests and a vaginal ultrasound scan to assess your ovaries, and a semen assessment where appropriate. Learn more about TFP fertility assessment packages.
At your first consultation with a TFP fertility specialist, they will cover your medical history and explain your test results. You and your doctor will then discuss their recommended programme of treatment based on your personal results and circumstances.
Counselling is available at any stage of your treatment pathway. Fertility treatment is a significant emotional journey for all patients, and counselling provides extra emotional support.
It is completely confidential. If you are going to be using donated eggs or sperm for your treatment, then you’ll be recommended to see the counsellor before starting treatment to discuss the implications for both you and any children that may be born. Learn more about fertility counselling.
At your treatment planning appointment one of our specialist fertility nurses will explain your treatment in full. You will be taken through your regime of drugs and shown how to use them.
You will have the opportunity to ask questions regarding your forthcoming treatment. It’s also the time when you officially consent to undergo fertility treatment, and we go over the legal side of things.
This is an important part of the process which ensures that your parenthood will be recognised legally after treatment. We require that everyone involved in the treatment comes to the treatment planning appointment. It generally takes 60 minutes. We use an online consent platform where you will be able to watch videos prior to electronically signing your consent. If you are funding your own treatment, you will need to pay for your treatment programme at this point. Once all the tests, consent forms and payment are completed, you are ready to start your IVF cycle. Learn more about the treatment planning appointment.
Your treatment will start on the first day of your period. You will need to call the clinic to let us know and to receive the instruction to start the treatment plan, as explained by your fertility specialist in your consultation and nurse in your planning appointment. As you’re not undergoing ovarian stimulation, you may or may not have drugs to take in this cycle; this will be agreed upon with your doctor at your consultation. If you have a regular menstrual cycle, we will monitor you so that we can transfer the embryo(s) at the best point in your ‘natural cycle’.
In general, treatment starts with drugs that stimulate your ovaries. This enables us to collect a number of eggs for insemination, rather than the usual single egg. The drugs are injections that can be taken at home – you’ll be shown how to do this.
Over a period of around two weeks of stimulation, you’re likely to have one to three scans and possibly blood tests, to monitor the development of the egg-producing follicles.
These are short appointments that last around 20 minutes, and the results are available later the same day. The timings are different for everyone, because treatment is tailored to suit each patient individually.
Once your follicles are ready, the stimulation period ends with an injection that matures the eggs in the follicles to get them ready for egg collection.
The appointment to collect the eggs will take place 36-40 hours after the trigger injection. The procedure takes about half an hour, and you will be given drugs to make you sleepy during the procedure.
With the help of a scanning probe, a very fine needle is passed through the vaginal wall and into the ovary to collect the eggs. Usually, around 80% of follicles contain an egg. As you will have had sedation you cannot drive or operate machinery for 24 hours and you will need someone to stay with you.
If your treatment uses a fresh sperm sample, it will be provided on the same day as the eggs. You provide the sample at the clinic, in one of our andrology (men’s) rooms. If you’re providing the sample via a surgical procedure, this will take place before the egg collection day, and the sample will be be frozen.
If you already have sperm in storage, or have been matched to a sperm donor, the sample will be thawed on the same day that the eggs are collected.
The sperm sample provided is prepared to ensure that the very best sperm are being used for insemination.
IVF – Prepared sperm will be added to the eggs in a culture dish.
ICSI – A single sperm will be selected and injected into each egg then put into a culture dish.
The culture dishes are placed in the incubator to allow fertilisation to take place.
The embryos are carefully monitored in the period after insemination, first to check for fertilisation, then for signs for development which indicate the embryo is growing. Time-lapse monitoring allows us to carefully monitor embryo development. Click here to learn more about time-lapse monitoring. The clinic will be able to update you on embryo development.
Shortly after egg collection, you may also start taking drugs to help prepare your uterus lining to receive an embryo (this is known as Luteal Phase Support).
If your treatment plan includes genetic testing, then this will happen during this phase.
The embryo transfer takes place 5 days after egg collection. The embryos are monitored carefully in the Embryoscope by our Embryologists. The procedure can feel like a smear test, but it takes longer: around 15 minutes. A tiny drop of culture medium containing one or two embryos is carefully deposited in the uterus using a thin catheter.
If you decided before treatment to store any further good quality embryos for further cycles, you’ll be consulted again, and it will happen at this stage.
We appreciate how difficult this two-week wait can be. Please call us at any time if you are concerned; no worry is too small. It’s a good idea to make plans for after embryo transfer to help you feel more in control. Try to live life as normally as possible.
If you’re pregnant, we schedule a scan in the clinic at around six to eight weeks. If everything looks good, then you’re discharged to your GP.
If your period arrives before the test is due or if the test is negative, rest assured you are not alone.
We can meet to talk, review your treatment, and consider what the next step will be on your IVF journey. IVF conception often takes place over a number of cycles. You could be ready for a new cycle within a short time, even a couple of months if you have frozen embryos, but this is completely up to you.
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