IVF 101 – Part I: What the Heck is IVF?

I am an IVF mom.  We are an IVF family.  National Infertility Awareness Week is this month, from April 22 through 28.  In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I’m doing a month long series describing the IVF process in a way that is hopefully easy to understand for families considering IVF or just starting out.

If your family is looking into the possibility of IVF or other fertility treatments, the process can be an emotional roller coaster and overwhelming at times.

Our family tried IVF for four years before having our son Maxwell who is now two. We had three miscarriages prior to my son being born, and we have had two miscarriages after Max. I understand the emotional roller coaster, feeling of loss and hope, and the passion you have in your heart to have your baby, and as part of National Infertility Awareness Month, I want to share this information to help make your journey easier for you.

There will be lots of new terms, processes and procedures that can be confusing.  As part of Infertility Awareness Month this April, I’m putting together a four part series that will break down the nuts and bolts of IVF in a way that is easy to understand.

It was important to me to explain this process in a series because I feel like too much information at once can be overwhelming, and it will be helpful for my readers to be able to search on a topic by topic basis.  I will keep these posts under the #Infertility page, and each post will link each of the posts.

This series will consist of a basic first timers guide to IVF to help fertility newbies, their friends, and family navigate the process.

Part One:

What the Heck is IVF?

First, the fundamental question, what the heck is IVF? In short, In vetro fertilization (IVF) consists of a woman taking medications to assist in producing eggs, those eggs are extracted, fertilized, and put back into uterus where hopefully it will implant and become a viable pregnancy.

There are five major steps:

(1) Diagnostics and Protocols After blood work and other tests that I’ll describe below, your doctor will figure out what medications and protocol will work best for you.  In the first phase of IVF, you will take medications and hormones to help your body produce eggs.

(2) Egg Retrieval. After the eggs have grown to maturity, the there will be a procedure where you will be under light sedation to have them removed called an egg retrieval.  Around the the same time that the egg extraction occurs for the woman, sperm is collected from a man. The eggs and sperm are mixed together and left to their own devices over night.

(3) Fertilization. In the morning the embryologists will check under a microscope to see how many eggs fertilized.  If they have fertilized, the single cell will have divided into two, and then two into four, then four into 16 and so on.  The embryologists monitor the embryos between 3-5 days depending on the fertility clinic, the patient, and the number of embryos.

(4) Embryo Transfer. Once an embryo is between 3-5 days old and looking good, it will be transferred back into the mom’s uterus.  Some doctors transfer more than one embryo, but it varies by patient, quality of the embryos, and the clinic.

(5) Pregnancy Test. Between 11 and 14 days after the embryo transfer, the mom will come in for her blood pregnancy test.  The time between the transfer and test is commonly referred to in fertility lingo as the “Two Week Wait”, or “TWW”.


This post is the first of my four part series, IVF 101.  Part II of this series will explain Diagnostics and Protocols as well as Egg Retrieval.  Part III of this series will talk about Fertilization, Embryo Transfer and the Pregnancy Test.

In Part IV, my final post of this series, I will answer your questions, so I’m counting on you guys to ask them.  No question is stupid.  No question is too personal.  Anything I can answer to help you in your journey, I am happy to do.

Please submit your questions on the Contact page, or email me to Kristy@proseccoandpalmtrees.com .

You can read about my personal journey with infertility in a Q&A session I did for Infertility Out Loud last year, and throughout the Infertility Section of Prosecco & Palmtrees.

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