IVF: Step By Step Guide

Embarking on
Your IVF Journey

Your Step By Step Guide

We know the journey to parenthood can sometimes have unexpected challenges and if you need assistance to get there, IVF might feel daunting. It can seem a complex process with multiple steps, decisions, and emotional highs and lows. It might be a welcome relief to start IVF after months or years of trying or you might feel apprehensive going into the unknown. Either way, information is power and we want to arm you with it.

To help you along the path, we want to break down the IVF journey so you can see what’s involved step by step. We can provide some insight into what to expect and advice on how to navigate the process, so you will have an in-depth understanding and the confidence to walk the path.

Step 1: Assessments & Consultation

The first step in any fertility journey is to schedule a consultation with a fertility specialist. This first step is often one of the most difficult to take, but it is the most crucial as it will help you discover your specific fertility needs and what you can do about them. The sooner you take that first step to find out where you stand, the closer you will be to building the family of your dreams.

In advance of your appointment, it’s very beneficial to have fertility tests carried out. These are just simple blood tests, and the clinic will guide you on which ones you need and when they need to be taken, as this needs to be done on specific days to give you the most accurate results. If you have male partner, he will have a simple semen analysis test.

At your appointment, the doctor will review your results and also perform an ultrasound scan of your uterus, ovaries, and pelvis to get a full picture of your fertility potential. The fertility specialist will put the results together alongside information about your medical history, lifestyle, and family plans and make a recommendation for you.

“The initial consultation is incredibly helpful”, explains Dr Eithne Lowe, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine at Waterstone Clinic Dublin. “At this meeting, we will review and discuss all the data from your tests and put it together with your medical history and plans. I’ll answer all your questions and give advice on the process, the costs, and we will discuss what your individual chances of success with treatment would be. We want you to be confident when you do decide to take the next steps”.

Step 2: Getting Started with Medications

Your first appointment when you decide to get started is a consultation with a fertility nurse specialist who will go through every single detail of your IVF cycle and get you prepared to start.

One part of IVF that many find a scary prospect is the hormone injections. “A lot of patients dread the thought of them” explains Martina Kelly, fertility nurse specialist, “but once we meet and they see how straightforward the process is, those worries disappear.”

The hormonal medications are an essential part of the process as they stimulate the ovaries to develop multiple follicles. Follicles are little bubbles of fluid that contain an egg. In a regular cycle, only one follicle grows to full size and ovulates an egg. The goal in an IVF cycle is to develop a larger number of follicles so that the team can retrieve many eggs and fertilise them in the laboratory.

The growth of the follicles is monitored over this time with ultrasound scans and you will have a number of appointments to make sure everything is progressing in advance of your egg collection procedure.

Step 3: Egg Collection

The egg retrieval step is a big milestone in the IVF journey and it is arranged once your follicles reach the right size.  The egg collection day is the only day you need to take off work during your IVF treatment.

“The egg collection is an exciting part of the IVF process and it’s the first procedure in the cycle” explains Dr Eithne Lowe. “You have some sedation so you’re comfortable and sleepy. The procedure is straightforward, we will use a very thin needle to retrieve the eggs from your ovaries and they’re brought directly to the laboratory to be fertilised with sperm and develop over the next few days into embryos”.

Step 4: Embryo Development

The process in the lab is meticulous and magical. The mature eggs that were collected are fertilised with sperm either with a traditional IVF procedure (where the sperm and eggs are mixed and left to fertilise) or with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) a specialised procedure where each mature egg is injected with a single sperm. Over the next few days, the fertilised eggs and under the care of the embryologists, they grow and develop into embryos.

Once the embryos reach the developmental milestones, they are ready to be transferred back to the uterus or frozen for use in the future. “In a good laboratory with expert embryologists, embryos can be frozen very successfully” explains Dr Lowe. “We are very confident with the techniques used in our lab, and we see the same excellent success rates with both fresh and frozen transfers. It’s great to see whole families built from one cycle of IVF.”

Step 5: Embryo Transfer

Whether it is fresh or frozen, the embryo transfer is probably the most highly anticipated step in the whole IVF journey. The procedure is very straightforward and quick.

“The embryologist will load the embryo into a fine catheter in the lab and bring it to the theatre”, explains Dr Lowe, “At that point I take the catheter and insert it. Using an ultrasound as a guide, I place the embryo for it to implant in the uterus.”

After the transfer, patients take medication to support the uterine lining and an early pregnancy and then the wait begins…

Step 6: The Two Week Wait (TWW)

The time between the embryo transfer and the day of your pregnancy test can be the hardest part of treatment. The “two-week wait,” can often be a rollercoaster of emotions. You might be excited, you might be anxious, but it’s certain that it will feel like the longest two weeks of your life.

“Some patients might feel they need to avoid doing anything during these two weeks”, says Dr Lowe, “but it. is a good idea live your life as normally as you can. Do things you enjoy, spend time with your partner and your friends. It can be difficult to wait all that time, so having plans will definitely help”.

Step 7: The Pregnancy Test

Once those two weeks are over, it will finally be time to take your pregnancy test which will determine if your IVF cycle was successful. If your test is positive, the team will arrange your early pregnancy scans.


It’s important to remember that not all IVF cycles result in pregnancy, and a negative cycle does not mean you have failed. Many factors influence the success of an IVF cycle, and your team will discuss these with you, and support you through next steps.

Support Through The Steps

The IVF journey is a medical process and it is also very physical and emotional too. The process can bring about feelings of hope, anxiety, joy, disappointment, and everything in between. The Clinic will support you in many ways and t here are things you can do to make the journey easier:

Clinic Support: Remember that your team are there to support you. There are so many resources available, from day-to-day guidance from the nursing team, information and education resources, counselling support, wellness resources and social media support available through the team.

Social Support: Whether you are going through the process with or without a partner, having a support circle is essential. Your friends and family members have an important role to play to support you (whether you share your journey or not).

Look After You: Remember to look after yourself during this time too. Take care of yourself the way you would take care of your friends: do nice things for yourself, make sure you take breaks in your day, take walks. Have date nights with your partner, and maybe treat yourself to a weekend break together. Look after yourself and look after each other, remember the love that started it all!

The Journey Overall

IVF treatment requires scientific and medical know-how from the experts, and from you it requires patience and hope. If you are thinking of, or about to embark on this process, we wish you the most heartfelt luck on your journey.

We hope this guide has helped you understand the process in more detail, and we hope you can approach your fertility journey without any apprehension, safe in the care of the experts.

Article originally featured on Image.ie 

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