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Question

What should I expect from the various stages in an IVF cycle?

An IVF cycle is defined as one egg transfer, regardless of how many eggs were actually transferred. For example, having one egg transferred at three different times counts as three cycles as does having two eggs transferred on each of three separate occasions.

There are a number of stages in an IVF treatment cycle. Firstly, you will give medication to suppress your existing levels of hormones for around two weeks (although some IVF clinics do not offer this period of so called down regulation).

This initial stage is important to ensure that your normal ovulation cycle doesn't interfere with your forthcoming artificially induced cycle. The medication puts your body into an artificial state of menopause so you may well experience some menopausal symptoms. These are temporary in nature and will pass after a few days.

The next stage of an IVF procedure, known as ovulation induction, is where the ovaries are stimulated to produce more than one egg. Medication will be given either in pill form or through more powerful injections to create the desired effect. This process can take up to ten days, and daily visits to the clinic or hospital will be required.

Once the ovulation induction is complete, you will then be given an injection of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) to bring the eggs to maturity, in preparation for collection. Egg retrieval will typically take place three days after the HCG injection is administered. You may feel a little discomfort during the retrieval procedure but significant pain is unlikely.

The IVF procedure then continues with the fertilisation of the eggs with the man’s sperm in a laboratory. The fertilised eggs are incubated for a few days until embryos begin to develop.

One or more of the highest quality embryos are then inserted into the woman's uterus using a small catheter. This complete one full cycle of an IVF procedure. If the embryo manages to attach itself to the uterus and continues to grow, the woman is considered to be pregnant.

The chances of a successful IVF procedure are approximately 30% per cycle. However, a number of factors will have a direct bearing on the likelihood of a positive outcome such as your age, your weight, and the nature for your fertility problem. Take a look at more information on the success rates of IVF treatment

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