What Is IVF?

Explanation of IVF procedure


There is so much misconception(har har, bad unintentional pun) out there about what IVF is, how it works, and what the statistics are. There is no guarantee it will work. With my diagnosis there is around a 60% chance of pregnancy(and that is just what my Dr. has mentioned. Looking around, it appears that the stats are even lower than that.) Unlike what Hollywood may tell you with their terrible shows and movies, you don’t use a turkey baster in a bathroom(I’m looking at you Jennifer Aniston) or get pregnant by waltzing into an office, choosing a donor, and la dee dah you’re pregnant with TWINS!(Yeah. I’m lookin at you J. Lo.)

There is a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot(A LOT) of medicine and monitoring that go into an IVF cycle.

So, without further ado, allow me to attempt to explain in layman’s terms what IVF is and how it works.

What exactly is IVF? What all does it involve?

IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilization.

There are two phases to an IVF cycle. The first phase is called “the suppression phase”.

During the suppression phase you take birth control pills(just the active pills) and a daily injection called Lupron to shut down your hormones, make your ovaries “quiet”, and keep you from ovulating on your own. You also take prenatal vitamins, an oral med called Dexamethasone, and a low dose aspirin. You will have another period after starting Lupron. At that point, you and your husband both take a z-pak and stop birth control pills.

At the end of this phase, you have blood work to check your hormone levels and have a transvaginal ultrasound to make sure everything is sufficiently “quiet”. They are also checking to make sure you haven’t developed any cysts or any other growths. If something like a cyst or polyp is discovered at this point they will either cancel your cycle or continue to suppress you to help alleviate it. It could be dangerous or hinder your chances at pregnancy if this isn’t done. If your ultrasound checks out all clear then you proceed to the second phase.

This is called “the stimulation phase.”

With multiple injections a day, continued Lupron, continued Dexamethasone, prenatals, and low dose aspirin, you start overstimulating your ovaries to produce as many follicles as possible. Along with blood work and ultrasound monitoring every other day or so to make sure you respond properly and are staying healthy. If you aren’t responding quickly enough your nurses will tell you to up your dosage or they may possibly cancel your cycle. If you respond too much you could develop OHSS(Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) which ranges from mild to severe, but needs to be closely monitored. When your follicles reach their peak size, around 20mm, you cease all your medication, trigger with Ovidrel, once in your stomach. Just like we did with our IUI’s.

Then you will have an egg retrieval 34-36 hours later.

Egg retrieval involves going to the hospital and having a procedure performed under anesthesia using an ultrasound and a long, skinny needle.   My eggs are visualized on the ultrasound and the needle is advanced through the vagina(*shudder* I didn’t have an epidural when I had Abigail, but I’m glad to be put out for this one) and into the follicle, aspirating fluid containing the egg from the ovary.

At that time, Jim will give his sample. They will give him the report of how many mature eggs were retrieved and then fertilize each egg, with one single sperm(this is ICSI- Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection. Pronounced ICK SEE) The ICSI procedure utilizes microscopy and micromanipulation. One sperm is loaded into a fine glass needle, the egg is penetrated and the sperm expelled into the cytoplasm of the egg.

After this, we wait 5 days keeping constant communication with our office to see how our little embryos are growing.

At that time we have our transfer scheduled. Our Dr. will grade all of our embryos and recommend how many to transfer(1 or 2) and if there are any capable of being frozen. The transfer will be very similar to our IUI’s. It’s kind of like a pap smear. They simply insert a catheter through my cervix and into my uterus to release the embryo(s).

After this, I continue injections, Progesterone in oil, as well as prenatal vitamins to help maintain a possible pregnancy. I then have more blood work 8 days later to test for pregnancy.

It’s amazing that technology has come SO far. It is absolutely breathtaking that we can replicate so closely what happens in a normal, healthy reproductive system. It is also totally and overwhelmingly humbling to see first hand how much actually does go into creating life. That the God of the universe was so thought out, so complex, so genius in His creation of it all.

I hope this explained a bit more, for those of you that weren’t exactly sure what actually happens during an IVF cycle, what all goes into it.

In my next post, I’ll detail a bit more some of the “controversy” pertaining to IVF, how Jim and I can justify our choice to pursue IVF as believers, and also break down a few of the options that are available to patients that we will be opting out of.

If you have any questions or want to know more about this post, feel free to comment or shoot me an email!


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    1. Yeah, so far so good(with the bc). The only thing I'm getting nervous about is stimming, even though I think that will be fine. I've heard yucky things about PIO. I'd really hoped to avoid it since my levels were so stinking high with just 2x a day suppositories, but I guess this is what they want me to do instead. Oh well 🙂

  1. Thank you for the detailed breakdown for IVF. I knew what it was…but did not know all of this. Have you already started this cycle?

    1. I have! My big exciting final post will be the breakdown/dates for my upcoming Dr's appointments and treatment plans. But, right now I am currently taking birth control pills, prenatals, and low dose aspirin. I start the Lupron injection and Dexamethasone on Friday!

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