One of the most frequent questions we hear from patients is "how long does an IVF cycle take?" The process can be divided into four stages: investigations, stimulation, retrieval and fertilisation, and embryo transfer. Each of these stages is fruther divided into substeps, all carefully planned to maximise your chances of falling pregnant. These normally take approximately a month and a half. We want you to know what to expect when you sign up with Central IVF. This is why we've created this step-by-step overview of an IVF timeline from start to finish.
The IVF Timeline
STEP 1 - Getting Started
The first step is to contact us by phone, email (via our Contact page), or by filling the form on the left side of the screen. One of our Patient Coordinators will get back to you ASAP to discuss the programme details including the tests required, logistics, our IVF process timeline, and the costs involved. Please do not hesitate to ask any questions if they arise, as it is vital that you fully understand the process we're about to embark on.
STEP 2 – Fertility Specialist's Consultation & Medical Tests
Before we can start your IVF treatment, we will require you to complete certain medical tests that will evaluate your fertility levels. This will allow us to develop a personalized stimulation protocol for you.
These tests include blood work (AMH, E2, FSH, Prolactin and TSH levels) and an antral follicle count (transvaginal ultrasound study).
Additionally, we will ask that you undergo certain medical exams (including tests to rule out HIV, hepatitis B & C and STDs), or have your GP forward us the results of the tests, provided you'd undergone them no more than 6 months prior to contacting us. You will also be asked to complete a medical information form.
We also advise that your partner submits a semen sample for analysis prior to the IVF treatment to rule out any issues related to male factor infertility.
STEP 3 – Medical Protocol / Stimulation
Once all the required tests have been completed, our specialists will provide you with a personalized medical protocol, which will list the medications you will be required to take and other relevant instructions. The medications are administered subcutaneously. Their purpose is to stimulate the follicles and to prevent premature ovulation.
Please note that it is possible to regulate your cycle with a contraceptive pill, thus making in possible to plan your desired treatment date in advance.
STEP 4 – Ultrasound Scan & Trigger Injection
A pelvic US scan will be performed several days into your treatment in order to evaluate whether the stimulation stage needs to be continued further or if it is possible to move onto the next stage and perform a trigger injection of hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin) to induce the final maturation of oocytes (this depends on the size and number of follicles). Egg retrieval takes place 35-37 hours following the trigger injection.
STEP 5 – Egg Retrieval
Our team will notify you of the egg retrieval time. The procedure takes place at our clinic under sedation. The oocytes are obtained with a specialized thin needle, which is inserted into the ovaries under transvaginal US guidance.
Normally oocyte retrieval takes about half an hour. You may experience light bleeding and cramping once the sedation wears of. These are common side effects. If needed, the symptoms can be alleviated by a mild painkiller. Our doctors will inform you about the amount of eggs that were collected.
STEP 6 – Fertilization & Embryo Transfer
The retrieved eggs will be fertilized with the partner's/donor's sperm. This is usually done by means of ICSI. We will keep you informed regarding the outcome of the fertilization process and the number of embryos created.
The created embryos will be cultured for either three or five days (depending on the recommendation of our expert embryologists) before being transferred back into the uterus. Day-5 embryo (also known as blastocyst) transfer is common in IVF cycles as it can increase the chances of success.
Embryo transfer is performed under US guidance, by means of a soft flexible catheter. The catheter is then removed and checked to ensure that all the embryos have been transferred. The procedure is completely painless, so sedation is not required. You will be advised to remain lying down for a short time following the procedure (approximately 1 hour), after which you will be discharged.
The good quality embryos that were not transferred can be cryopreserved (frozen) in liquid nitrogen and stored. They can be used in subsequent cycles if pregnancy is not achieved on the first attempt or if you decide to have another child in the future.
Please see our post embryo transfer FAQ page for more recommendations.
STEP 7 – Pregnancy Test
The final step in the IVF timeline is your pregnancy test. It will take place 12 days after the embryo transfer. The most reliable method is a beta hCG blood test, which measures the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (a hormone the placenta begins to produce when a pregnancy begins).
If the result is positive and confirmed by a repeat test performed several days later, a vaginal ultrasound will be scheduled approximately one and a half months from the date of the embryo transfer, during which the attending fertility specialist will, hopefully, locate a heartbeat and a gestational sac, and confirm that your treatment has been a success and that you're on your way to becoming a parent.