An IVF cycle takes about three weeks from start to finish and begins with stimulating the ovaries. In a regular menstrual cycle, only one ova is released but with a course of injections fertility drugs stimulate the ovaries into maturing several ova. Blood tests will monitor your hormones levels for signs of over or under stimulation and transvaginal ultrasound is used to determine the maturity of the ova.
Once the eggs are ready for harvest, you will under go a minor surgery called follicular aspiration. This is a daysurgery which is usually done in your Doctor's clinic and you'll be home the same day. Medication is given to relieve any pain you may experience. Ultrasound images are used as a guide and your Doctor will insert a thin needle through the vagina. Attached to the needle is a suction tube. The needle is inserted into an ovary and the follicles which contain the eggs. The eggs are gently suctioned out of each follicle one at a time and then repeated on the other other ovary. repeated for the other ovary. You may experience some cramping afterwards.
After close examination, your Doctor will chose the best quality eggs and place them into a special chamber along with the sperm. Insemination usually occurs within a few hours but if the Doctor thinks that there is a possibility that the chances of fertilization being low, staff will inject the sperm into the egg. This is known as ICSI (intracytoplasmic `sperm injection). Depending on your choice of clinic, this will be done routinely regardless.
Over the next three to five days, your Doctor will closely monitor the egg's progress. The egg becomes an embryo once it begins to divide. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is occasionally offered at this stage to couples who are concerned about passing genetic complications onto their child. It's highly controversial and not all clinics offer PGD. At the end of this stage, several cells in your embryo's are actively dividing and are ready to be implanted back into the womb.
Depending on your age and the clinic, two - three embryo's are transferred back into the uterus. Once again, this is a day surgery that is done in your Doctor's office whilst under a local anesthetic. A thin catheter carries the embryo's through the cervix and up into the womb. At this point, there is no way to embed the embryo into the uterine wall and they are left to their own devices. Some Doctor's choose to medically prepare the uterine wall making it more receptive. Should an embryo implant to the wall...well, congratulations!