In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

IVF Timeline: Understanding the Process

A photo of a lab assistant fertilizing an egg under a microscope.

Some of the most common questions we receive from new patients are around the IVF timeline and process. What will your time commitments be? What kind of tests will be done at what point in the cycle? 

To put it simply, this timing can vary depending on your unique circumstances. The average cycle can take anywhere from three to four months and is dependent on factors like where you are in your current menstrual cycle, how you respond to fertility medications, and what your personal schedule looks like. 

However, to help you feel comfortable and confident as you get started, let’s walk through the IVF timeline and what you can expect when working with Fertility Centers of New England.

Step One: Meeting Your Fertility Doctor

When starting off with IVF, the first and most important step is to meet with your doctor. This serves as a time for you to discuss your goals for starting or growing your family, and to get answers to questions you might have. Common questions include “what tests are performed?,” “what other steps can I take to improve my chances of getting pregnant?,” and “what are the costs associated with IVF?” 

From there, your doctor will order any necessary tests for a fertility evaluation, and you will be set up with an appointment. The timing of these first two steps will vary depending on appointment availability as well as your schedule.

If you are still in the process of figuring out what to look for in your fertility center, we are here to help. You can download our free guide to help pick a team that understands and prioritizes your wants and needs throughout your time together.

Step Two: Fertility Evaluation, Genetic Carrier Screening, and Starting Fertility Medications

To build a custom IVF treatment plan, your doctor will order a variety of tests for you and, if they are playing an active role in your fertility care, your partner. Some of the tests you may go through include:

  • Blood work
  • Ultrasounds
  • Semen analysis
  • Cycle monitoring
  • A uterine structural study
  • A endometrial biopsy to detect any inflammation in the uterine cavity
  • Identifying and treating any problems in the uterine or pelvic cavity

You will also need to undergo genetic carrier screening to determine your future child’s risk of developing certain genetic disorders. This allows you and your care team to make informed decisions about what options are best for you. Results usually take about two to three weeks to come in.

By the end of this step, you will likely be about a month into your IVF timeline. However, this can vary depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. It will take about one week to get your results, and your doctor may prescribe medications to help stimulate egg production and maturation, and regulate ovulation. 

You will begin taking these medications at the beginning of your cycle (usually around day two or three) for a period of 10 to 14 days, depending on how your body responds to them. Dr. Vitiello explains how fertility medication injections work and the role they play in an IVF cycle in our recent blog post.

Step Three: Egg Retrieval

Thirty-six hours before your egg retrieval, you will receive a trigger shot with medication that encourages your follicles to release their eggs. This timing must be exact to ensure that the eggs remain in the ovaries for harvesting. Scheduling the appointment for your trigger shot will be done after scheduling your egg retrieval to ensure proper timing.

The egg retrieval process takes approximately 30 minutes, and your eggs will then be sent to a lab to be tested. Results will inform your fertility doctor of how many healthy, viable eggs there are. If your partner is donating sperm, this will likely be done on the same day as the retrieval.

Step Four: In Vitro Fertilization

Shortly after the retrieval, your eggs will be fertilized and monitored at the lab to see how they fare. When working with Fertility Centers of New England, we will update you the next day and set a date for the embryo transfer. 

The embryos will need to be monitored for three to six days, and sometime during the last two, preimplantation genetic testing (PGT-A) will be performed to look for any abnormalities. It takes around two weeks for those results to come in. 

During this time, you will begin taking medication to prepare your uterus for the embryos and continue to do so for at least two weeks. From there, you will then get ready for an embryo transfer.

Step Five: Embryo Transfer

About a week after the egg retrieval, you will come back into the center for your embryo transfer. The procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes, and after at least 30 minutes of resting, you’ll be able to go home. During an embryo transfer, your doctor will place the embryo into your uterus with a small and flexible catheter, and position it in a spot to help maximize the chances of a successful pregnancy. 

Once the transfer is complete, there is a two-week wait before your fertility care team can do a pregnancy test via blood draw to ensure the most accurate results. We know these two weeks can feel like an incredibly long wait, and we will work as quickly as possible to get you the results.

Step Six: Figuring Out Next Steps 

Once you’ve taken your pregnancy test and gotten your results, your doctor will work with you to determine what your next steps will be. If the results are positive, we will follow up with you until you’re transferred to your regular OB, which will be sometime after the 10-week ultrasound.

While we always work toward and hope for a successful pregnancy, we know that the results might not always be what you hoped. When you are ready, we will be here to discuss what happened during your cycle, what we learned, and what we can do during the next cycle. 

A negative pregnancy test does not mean you won’t have the family you’ve dreamed of.

If you’re ready to learn more about the IVF timeline or the process, we’re here to help. Contact us or schedule your initial consultation, which is free for those without fertility insurance.

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