How can I prepare for my first IVF cycle?

You can prepare your body by being fit, having a healthy BMI, a good diet and doing regular, gentle exercise.

You can mentally prepare by being well informed about what to expect and this will also help you to feel more calm during each stage. Your consultant will guide you through each stage and you will have the opportunity to ask questions as you go along.

If you have a partner, be open about your feelings from the start and keep those lines of communication open throughout, so that you can support each other. Counselling is also advised, prior to starting IVF treatment.

IVF involves a lot of short notice hospital visits, so it is wise to inform your employer before starting the process.

What will happen after my GP’s referral to the specialist?

Your fertility specialist or consultant will examine you (and your partner, if you have one). They will ask you questions about your medical history and your family’s medical history, to establish if there are any known genetic or fertility issues. They may do blood tests, an ultrasound to assess your ovaries and a semen analysis. There are a range of other tests that they may also do, to check the condition of your fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus.

When they have completed their assessments, they will then advise you on the best course of action for you. If they recommend IVF, they will tell you what is involved in the IVF process and answer any questions.  They will also talk about any medication that may be used and, depending on your medical history, whether a mild cycle, with less medication, may be more suited to your needs.

When will my IVF treatment start?

The cycle will start on the first day of your period.

What is the first stage of treatment?

The process usually starts with self-administered injections, to stimulate your ovaries to release more eggs. You will be shown how to do the injections.

The next step involves scans and possibly blood tests, as they will need to observe how your follicles are responding to the fertility medication.

When the follicles are ready, there will be a trigger injection, to mature the eggs to prepare them for collection, 36-40 hours later.

What is involved with the egg collection?

A light sedative will be used to make you feel drowsy during egg removal. The egg retrieval process will take around half an hour and involves a fine needle being passed through your vaginal wall.

After the procedure, you will need to rest, avoid driving or operating machinery for 24 hours and have someone with you, due to the sedation.

After egg collection, you may have to take further medication, to help to prepare your uterus for potential embryo transfer, if viable embryos are produced.

When will sperm collection take place?

If you are using your partner’s sperm, they will need to produce a sperm sample in a private room, on the same day as egg collection.

What happens next to the eggs and sperm?

During the insemination process, the best sperm are selected and added to the eggs in a special dish in the lab. If you are having IVF with ICSI, the sperm will be injected into each egg. Then, the dishes are put into an incubator for them to fertilise.

What happens next?

Experts will check on the progress of the eggs and sperm, to see if fertilisation has taken place and to monitor the development of any embryos. You will be kept informed of any embryo development and told if any of them are viable for transfer.

What happens at embryo transfer?

Five days after egg collection will be embryo transfer day.

If you have more than one viable embryo, your consultant will talk to you about how many to transfer. No more than two embryos will be transferred, to reduce the risk of multiple births. You may have the option to store any unused embryos to use in a later cycle.

The embryo(s) will be transferred into your uterus using a catheter.

When will I find out if the transfer has been successful?

You will be invited in for a pregnancy test at least 7 days after the transfer and you should wait for this clinic test, rather than getting a false result with a home pregnancy kit. This is because the fertility hormones used during IVF may affect the home testing kit.

What happens after the pregnancy test

If you have a positive pregnancy test, you will be told when to attend the clinic for a scan.

If the test is negative, the clinic will offer support and let you know what further options may be available to you.

Here at The IVF Network, we provide information and advice through our blog posts, website and dedicated channel of experts, to help you to make informed choices on your personal fertility journey.