What is IVF?
IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) is a procedure, used to overcome a range of fertility issues, by which an egg and sperm are joined together outside the body, in a specialised laboratory. The fertilised egg (embryo) is allowed to grow in a protected environment for some days before being transferred into the woman's uterus increasing the chance of a viable pregnancy.
What is the process for IVF?
Step 1: At your initial appointment, your fertility specialist will review your medical history and all previous investigations and treatments. You and your partner should both attend your first appointment with your fertility specialist. They will review your medical history, all previous investigations and treatment, and will provide preliminary advice about your treatment options.
Step 2: You’ll meet again with your fertility specialist, confirm your treatment plan, have any questions answered and sign the relevant consent forms. Discuss any complementary medicines you are taking now, as these may interfere with your treatment.
Step 3: Your fertility nurse gives you the medication you need, explains the treatment cycle timeline, and shows you how to self-administer the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) injections. We recommend both you and your partner attend this appointment.
Step 4: FSH is administered through a diabetic-style pen, stimulating your ovaries to produce more eggs than usual. We have a higher chance of achieving fertilisation and pregnancy when we can collect more eggs.
Step 5: Throughout your cycle, regular blood tests measure your hormone levels and ultrasounds measure the size and number of your ovarian follicles. This also helps us determine the appropriate time for egg collection. All your blood and ultrasound tests are conducted by our nurses within your chosen IVF Australia clinic, and are included as part of your treatment costs.
Step 6: Once you have the optimum number and size of follicles, we plan your egg collection. You’ll have a trigger injection of hCG (human chorionic gonatrophin) in the evening, and the operation for egg collection will occur 36 to 38 hours later. The hCG injection replaces the natural Luteinising Hormone in the body and 'triggers' or instigates ovulation.
Step 7: Egg collection is undertaken in day surgery, usually under ultrasound guidance. Most women prefer a light general anaesthetic, but you can have a local anaesthetic with sedation if you prefer. You will be at the hospital for about 4 hours and will need someone to drive you home afterwards. Make sure you can take the rest of the day off work.
On the morning of your egg collection your partner will need to provide a fresh semen (sperm) sample, so we can immediately fertilise your eggs.
Step 8: Collected eggs are taken to the laboratory and placed in culture medium to prepare them for fertilisation later that day. In IVF, prepared sperm and eggs are placed together in a dish where fertilisation occurs. In ICSI, an individual sperm is selected by a highly experienced embryologist, and, under very delicate microscopic control, the egg is injected with this single sperm.
Step 9: The egg and sperm are then placed in individual incubators at 37 degrees to mimic the temperature of the human body. The next day, scientists will examine the eggs to determine if fertilisation has occurred, and will call you to advise you of the development of the embryos.
Step 10: Embryo transfer is a simple day surgery procedure and usually takes place five days after the egg collection. The embryos are transferred into the uterus through a very fine catheter passed through the cervix, a procedure similar to a pap smear. In some cases we may recommend transferring embryos earlier.
Step 11: Any extra embryos not used during a treatment cycle that are suitable for freezing can be stored for the future.
Step 12: Your nurse will organise an appointment for you to have a blood test two weeks after the embryo transfer. Occasionally, women can still have a period despite being pregnant, so this blood test will occur even if your period has commenced. We do not recommend the use of urinary pregnancy test kits, as the hormone medication given throughout treatment could produce an incorrect reading.
Your pregnancy blood test results are usually available by mid afternoon. If the pregnancy test is positive, we will arrange an ultrasound scan approximately three weeks later.
What are the costs?
In Australia each round of IVF costs about $10,000.