A step-by-step overview of the IVF process

A step-by-step overview of the IVF process
In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves removing eggs from the ovaries and fertilizing them in the laboratory. With embryo screening, an average IVF cycle takes about 8 to 10 weeks from the beginning of the IVF cycle to embryo transfer. We’ll walk you through the series of key steps and what end outcomes to expect.
Written by Christina Ren, MS, CGC 
Medically reviewed by Cristina Vidal, RN
  • Cristina Vidal, RN, is the IVF-Donor-Surrogate nurse coordinator at Stanford Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility with over 20 years of experience in the fertility and reproductive clinic.

IVF Timeline

Ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval

  • Boost egg production through stimulation medications (9-12 days) — During a typical menstrual cycle, only one egg is released. In one round or “cycle” of IVF, the goal is to grow a larger number of follicles, each of which houses an egg, and collect the respective number of eggs. During this time, the patient will inject themselves with hormone medications at home and visit the IVF clinic to monitor hormone levels through bloodwork and perform ultrasounds to look at follicle growth.
  • Retrieve eggs from ovaries — The egg retrieval is about a 20-minute procedure under light anesthesia. Once under anesthesia, a fertility doctor will begin the procedure by using ultrasound to guide a small needle, through the vaginal wall, into each ovary to collect the eggs. The eggs are then transferred to the specialized embryology lab.

Embryo transfer

  • Create embryos by fertilizing eggs with sperm —On the day of egg retrieval, the mature eggs are fertilized with sperm by either surrounding eggs by sperm for one sperm to fertilize the egg or selecting a single sperm to inject directly into the egg. The next day, embryologists check how many mature eggs have fertilized normally.
  • Grow embryos (5-7 days) — Behind the scenes, embryos grow and develop in an incubator that mimics the environment found in a woman’s fallopian tubes. Many clinics grow embryos until they reach the blastocyst stage, which comprises over a hundred or so cells.
  • Sample embryos for genetic testing and freeze embryos (10-14 days) — The embryos that have reached the blastocyst stage by day 5 or 6 are sampled (biopsied) and the sampled cells are sequenced and analyzed. Embryo screening results take about 10-14 days once the embryo samples are sent. In the meantime, the embryos are frozen and kept safely in the IVF clinic.
  • Transfer of embryos into the uterus — Typically frozen embryos are thawed and transferred back to the uterus after the second menstrual period following egg retrieval. The embryo transfer procedure is not painful and takes a few minutes. The patients are able to watch by ultrasound as embryos are transferred. A follow-up pregnancy test is done about 9 to 11 days after.
Additional resources about IVF
Fertility treatment and reproductive medicine have come a long way since IVF was first introduced over 40 years ago. If you are planning on starting or growing your family, check out our expert guides on all things genetics and fertility. Today, advanced genetic screening is now available to couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. Explore how Orchid helps you conceive with confidence.
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