The 7 steps of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) Process

Pregnancy 101
Aug 15, 2023

woman sitting on a hammock

IVF is like a scientific baking show, but instead of flour and sugar, we're dealing with eggs and sperm.

The whole science baby-making process involves a carefully choreographed dance between eggs and sperm in a lab. We start with the egg retrieval, a swanky event where mature eggs are plucked with precision. Then it's time for the sperm to wine and dine the eggs, either traditionally or with a direct pickup line called ICSI (keep reading to learn what that is). After some cultured mingling, we select the crème de la crème embryos for a red carpet transfer into the uterus (in this case a long catheter is your red carpet). And then, it's the grand finale: waiting, hoping, and crossing fingers for a standing ovation—aka successful implantation. 

Let's take it step-by-step:

STEP 1: Stimulate the ovaries

First up, you inject yourself (or get someone else to do it for you like one of our fertility tea loving customers below who asked her sister to jab her instead) with fertility hormones (1 - 2 small needles a day in the belly depending on the dose your specialist gave you). You do this every day for 8 - 14 days to signal your ovaries to grow follicles. The more follicles you grow, the more likely they are to have eggs inside, and therefore the more likely you are to retrieve these eggs and make a baby. The most common hormones typically used are the Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists/antagonists (GnRH). 

ivf needles

STEP 2: Monitor the follicles

You go in for the odd ultrasound to monitor how your ovaries and follicles are doing (warning ladies this is an internal ultrasound so camera goes up the HooHa). You also need blood tests to monitor your hormone levels. Lots of jabs. Fun.

Statistics: Women on these fertility hormones can grow anywhere between a few to 20 follicles with eggs inside. Think of follicles like the little houses that the eggs live inside. Not all follicles grow to the desired size, and not all follicles have eggs that are good to use either. There's no guarantee to the number of viable eggs you're going to have until you go into surgery. 

 internal ultrasound

STEP 3: Give yourself the trigger shot

Once your specialist is happy with the size and number of your follicles, you get one final needle to trigger ovulation (hCG). This is carefully timed for when you will go in for your retrieval surgery. The risk in administering the trigger injection to early is that you'll lose all the eggs you've been lovingly growing over the past couple of weeks. The risk in triggering too late is that the eggs won't be in the right spot for collection during the surgery. So, whatever time your specialist says you have to trigger, you do it. It's typically 36 hours before surgery is scheduled.

ivf trigger shot 

STEP 4: Get the eggs out (surgery)

This is a surgical procedure to extract the eggs. It's usually done under light sedation or anaesthesia. A thin needle goes up through the vagina into the ovaries guided by an ultrasound. The eggs are then sucked from the follicles. Cute. The procedure typically takes 20 - 30 minutes.

Statistics: The aim here is to get enough mature eggs to increase the chances of a successful IVF cycle later on. The exact number of eggs retrieved varies, ranging from a few eggs to more than 20 or even higher in some cases. However, not all eggs are 'mature' or 'viable'. Out of the total number of eggs retrieved, expect only 70 - 90% to be mature eggs that are viable for freezing / IVF. So, if you get x15 eggs out of a cycle then it's likely only 10 - 13 will be 'mature' and usable. If you get x8 eggs out of a cycle then it's likely only 5 - 6 will be mature. 

 ivf surgery

STEP 5: Fertilise eggs with sperm 

Once the viable eggs have been collected, the next step is to introduce them to their new friend, sperm. We're hoping for fertilisation here. This can happen in one of two ways: traditional insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

  • Traditional Insemination: The retrieved eggs are combined with a sample of sperm (a whole bunch of them) in a culture dish. The sperm naturally attempt to penetrate the eggs, and fertilisation occurs if successful.
  • ICSI: In cases where there are concerns about sperm quality or if previous fertilisation attempts have been unsuccessful, a single healthy sperm is singled out and directly injected into each mature egg using a specialised micromanipulation technique.

Statistics: Approx. 60-80% of mature eggs fertilise with sperm. For example, if you have 10 mature eggs, around 6-8 are expected to successfully fertilise. The fertility clinic typically takes 16 hours to let you know how many eggs successfully fertilised.  

 ivf insemination

 

STEP 6: Embryo growth 

The fertilised eggs are popped away in a safe place to do their thing for the next 3-5 days. During this time the fertilised egg should undergo cell division and growth into a beautiful little embryo. The embryologist observes their development to select the healthiest and most viable embryos for transfer. The blastocysts or embryos are usually graded by your fertility clinic and only the strongest ones will be suitable for transfer. The transfer can happen 3-5 days after egg collection (fresh cycle) or the embryos can be frozen to use at a later date. 

Statistics: Approx. 40-60% of fertilised eggs will progress to the blastocyst stage. Some may stop developing early on, whereas others may develop more slowly. The ones that do reach the blastocyst stage (approx. 5 days after fertilisation) are often considered to have the highest chance of successful implantation.

 blastocyst day 5

STEP 7: Embryo transfer

After all the needles, surgery, and angst of watching your little embryo develop into a healthy blastocyst the actual embryo transfer bit is a bit of a non-event. Similar to a pap smear in sensation, the specialist transfers the previous blastocyst cargo into a catheter and then up through the cervix into the uterus. The procedure is guided by an ultrasound. You're often required to have a full bladder for the procedure so trying to hold your pee in while simultaneously relaxing to allow the catheter in can feel like the cervix olympics. After the embryo has been transferred, you're free to use the bathroom and go about your normal activities. The next touch point will be a blood test or pregnancy test a couple of weeks down the track. This is where your doctor can confirm (thanks to hormones in the blood) whether the little blastocyst has successfully buried itself into your lining meaning you are officially pregnant. This 'two-week-wait' can be a nightmare. So if you find yourself googling early pregnancy symptoms at 3am or generally feeling quite stressed, have a read about how to stay calm during the two-week wait here. 

Statistics: Approx. 20-50% of transferred embryos successfully implant. 

fingers crossed

And there you have it – IVF, a carefully orchestrated scientific process to help bring a sweet creation to life. 

Special thanks to our fertility tea loving community that generously shared photos of their IVF process to use in this article :)  

Is it safe to drink Fertility Tea for Her during IVF treatment?

Typically yes. The Fertility Tea for Her is a natural organic product that can be helpful to use alongside a medical intervention such as IVF or IUI. However, each IVF treatment is different because every root cause of needing IVF in the first place is different. Therefore, it's always best to send your fertility specialist team a quick email or call to confirm the tea won't interfere with your specific treatment plan. The ingredients in the Fertility Tea for Her to ask about are: Raspberry leaf, Chaste Tree Berries, Lady Mantle, Lavender, Nettle, Lemon balm and Licorice Root. 

Should you or your specialist have any concerns, we also have other delicious fertility tea boosting blends to help support your conception journey such as Relaxation Glo. No matter the fertility tea blend you go for, cosying up with a delicious cuppa alongside medical interventions won’t only boost your fertility journey - it’ll calm your mind preparing you for your journey ahead. 

fertility tea for her bundle