Every month, follicles begin to develop in a woman’s ovaries. Depending on your age, anywhere between one and 30 follicles – known as recruits – will begin to develop in each menstrual cycle. Regardless of your age, only one of these developing follicles will dominate and ovulate at the level of the hormone FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) that a woman produces naturally.
During an IVF cycle, injections of a hormone known as FSH are used to encourage more of the follicles to develop mature eggs. These eggs are then collected under vaginal ultrasound guidance in a procedure called oocyte pick-up (OPU) or egg pick-up or retrieval.
The eggs are then fertilised in the lab with the sperm collected from your male partner. The developing embryos are monitored for five or six days, before one is transferred to your uterus. If there are additional embryos, they can be frozen and stored for later use.
The steps in an IVF cycle are:
1. Stimulating the ovaries with injections of FSH
2. Preventing premature ovulation (the LH surge) by shutting down communication between the brain and the ovaries, so that the eggs are not lost before they can be collected
3. Triggering ovulation by replacing the LH surge at mid cycle with an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
4. Collecting and combining the eggs and sperm
5. Culturing embryos in the laboratory
6. Transferring the embryo
7. Supporting the endometrium in the luteal phase with hCG or progesterone
An IVF cycle typically takes up to three weeks from the time of the first injections to egg collection. While around 50 per cent of people who come to seeking help for fertility don’t require IVF, Ying will decide with you if IVF is the right treatment for you and will be able to address any questions or concerns you might have.