IVF Cycles at the Fertility Center
Each month, the Fertility Center batches IVF cycles for a retrieval week. Patients who have been screened, approved, and prepped to participate in that month’s IVF cycle are divided into two or three groups. This coordination allows appointments to be staggered and ensures that adequate space is available in the embryology lab’s incubators.
Prior to an IVF cycle, most female patients use birth control to delay the start of their menstrual cycles. Women are also encouraged to take one baby aspirin a day along with prenatal vitamins. Both men and women undergo a round of prescribed oral antibiotics.
Patients are instructed when to stop taking birth control pills. Some spotting or breakthrough bleeding may occur, and this is normal. Each patient schedules a baseline ultrasound and lab appointment to ensure that the ovaries are quiet and estrogen levels are low. Stimulation medications will begin at the start of the IVF cycle, typically about 10 days prior to retrieval week.
Medicine and Lab Work
Beginning three days after the start of stimulation meds, each patient is scheduled to have blood drawn and an ultrasound. These scans and labs continue every other day and may occur more frequently as retrieval approaches. Medications are adjusted accordingly.
Each time a patient visits for scans and lab work, she will receive a text message informing her that her results have been posted to her patient portal. The message is simply a notification that results are ready; no medical information is disclosed.
Most patients require an average of 7 to 10 days of stimulation before their follicles are adequately sized. At that point, a “trigger” injection is given to signal the eggs to mature and release. Each patient is instructed to take her “trigger” injection at a specific time, and her retrieval procedure is scheduled 36 hours later.
While the patient is under anesthesia, her eggs are retrieved and are then fertilized with sperm in the lab to create embryos. After about five days of growth and division, a transfer procedure is scheduled, returning the highest quality embryos to the woman’s uterus. Each patient takes progesterone and returns to the Fertility Center to have her levels checked a few days later. A pregnancy test is performed nine days after transfer.
Frozen IVF Cycles
Patients who participate in a cycle using cryogenically preserved (frozen) eggs or embryos bypass the stimulation, trigger, and retrieval stages of the IVF process. In addition to repeating any out-of-date labs, female patients use estrogen patches to prepare the uterus. Scans and labs determine the best time for the transfer of thawed, fertilized, and prepared eggs or embryos. The transfer is followed by progesterone supplementation. Nothing clinical is required from men during a frozen cycle.