IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) in which a woman’s eggs and man’s sperm are combined in a laboratory dish in order to create an embryo. An embryo or embryos are then transferred to the woman’s uterus through her cervix to enhance the chances of pregnancy. It is generally applied when other less expensive fertility techniques have failed.

The IVF process can be described in these below four steps. However, it is recommended to consult with a fertility doctor to understand how IVF can work for you.

Step 1: Stimulation or super ovulation
• Woman ovaries are continuously monitored to ensure that she will release eggs to be fertilized at a particular time.
• Most of the time medication or hormones are used to boost egg production.
• Normally, a woman produces one egg per month. Fertility drugs used for the production of several eggs.
• During this step, the woman will have blood tests to check hormone levels and regular transvaginal ultrasounds to examine the ovaries.

Step 2: Egg retrieval
• A minor surgery called follicular aspiration is performed to extract the eggs from the woman's ovaries.
• Using ultrasound images as a guide and under light pain medication, the doctor will insert a very thin needle through the upper vaginal wall and remove fluid which contains eggs from the follicles of the ovaries. Most of the time, the surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure in the doctor's clinic.
• The procedure is applied again for the other ovary. There may be some cramping as a result of the procedure, but it will disappear within a day.
• A pelvic laparoscopy may be needed to remove the eggs but it is very rare. Donor eggs may be used, if a woman cannot produce any eggs.
• Immediately after retrieval of the follicles, the egg is placed in a dish and transferred to an incubator.

Step 3: Fertilization
• A sperm sample is collected either from a partner or a donor and placed together with the best quality eggs. This process is called insemination.
• Eggs and sperm are then stored in an environmentally controlled chamber. The sperm most usually fertilizes an egg a few hours after insemination.
• If the doctor thinks the chance of fertilization is low, they may choose to inject the sperm directly into the egg to optimize success. This is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
• The embryologist and doctor then monitor the fertilization process to make sure a healthy embryo is developed.

Step 4: Embryo culture and transfer
• The fertilized egg transformed in to an embryo. Doctor and embryologist will regularly check the embryo to make sure it is growing properly. Embryo has several cells that are actively dividing within about 5 days.
• Once they determine that the embryo(s) is ready for transfer they decided a day for the transfer embryo. This is the final step of the IVF process, but there are still many unknown results may occur.
• The doctor will place a speculum into the vagina and transfer the embryo through a small plastic tube placed through the cervix into the uterine cavity.
• Unused embryos may be frozen and implanted or donated in the future.

Author's Bio: 

SCI Healthcare, Founder & Director Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour has experienced more than 10years in fertility services. Dr. Shivani Gour completed her graduation and speciality training in Gynaecology and Obstetrics from Mumbai.