In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process where eggs and sperm are combined outside of the uterus to create fertilized embryos, which are then put back into the mother’s womb to develop into a pregnancy. IVF has been around for over thirty years. Today, it is the most common method of medically-assisted pregnancy. IVF also has the highest success rates of all assisted reproductive treatments. The IVF process has many steps, and the emotional, physical, and financial investments required can sometimes feel overwhelming. Dr. Dan and the staff at our acclaimed Santa Barbara fertility center are here to answer your questions, provide resources, and help guide you through your journey to parenthood.
A basic step-by-step of the IVF process is listed below, but of course, there’s a lot more to cover! Our staff is happy to schedule a consultation to provide information based on your specific needs.
INITIAL FERTILITY TESTING & DIAGNOSIS
As with all fertility treatment, you’ll begin with comprehensive diagnostic testing to get a complete picture of your health and an accurate diagnosis of the causes of infertility. In some cases, IVF may not be necessary or feasible, or Dr. Dan might recommend alternative treatments to start.
Once you’ve gone through the initial testing process, Dr. Dan will review your diagnosis with you and discuss all your treatment options in detail. If you decide to use IVF, Dr. Dan and our staff will go over the entire process, scheduling each procedure and answering all your questions. One of our staff will also sit down with you to cover the financial side of the process. Our goal during these consultations is to help you feel fully comfortable and informed of all your available options before beginning the IVF process. No question is too small – we’re here for you!
The most important part of this step is taking birth control pills to regulate your hormone production and get your ovaries ready to develop additional eggs. During this time, we may also perform additional tests and recommend healthy lifestyle adjustments as needed.
CONTROLLED OVARIAN HYPERSTIMULATION (COH)
During this step, you’ll begin hormonal treatments (either from a pill or an injectable medication) to encourage your ovaries to produce more mature eggs at once than they would naturally. The end goal is to get at least three mature, developed eggs. We will also perform blood tests and ultrasounds to carefully observe the egg development. This stage can take several weeks, as your body adjusts to the hormones and nurtures the eggs.
OVULATION & EGG RETRIEVAL
Once enough eggs have developed to the right stage, you will receive a specific hormone injection to induce ovulation, releasing the mature eggs. After about 36 hours, you will return to our office for the egg retrieval procedure. An anesthesiologist will place you under IV sedation, and our specialists will remove the eggs. The actual retrieval process only takes about 15 minutes, with a short rest period after in our comfortable recovery rooms.
IVF & MONITORING
With the retrieved eggs and a sperm sample provided by your partner or a sperm donor, we perform the actual IVF procedure in our state-of-the-art lab. Where possible, the egg and sperm are mixed together in a standard insemination process; otherwise, if the sperm is not as efficient or healthy, a single sperm is injected into each egg in a treatment called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
As the embryos begin to develop, our lab specialists closely monitor them and will give you updates on their progression. During this stage, we can also screen for certain genetic disorders, ensuring only the healthiest embryos with the greatest chance of success are transferred. If you’d like, we can also determine the gender of each embryo at this stage.
Dr. Dan and his team will meet with you to discuss the embryo progression and determine the best transfer plan. This includes the number of embryos that should be transferred to maximize chances of a successful pregnancy and minimize chances of multiple births. There are many factors that affect this number, including your age and the results of prior IVF cycles. Once a decision is reached, we’ll perform the transfer process. This outpatient procedure is quick and relatively painless, similar to a Pap smear, and doesn’t require any sedation. Any high-quality embryos left over can be frozen for use in future IVF cycles.
PREGNANCY TESTING & MONITORING
After the transfer, you’ll be prescribed a medication to boost chances of embryo implantation and development. After a little less than two weeks, you’ll take a pregnancy test to see if the IVF procedure was successful. If the test is positive, we’ll administer another test to make sure the pregnancy is progressing successfully. If everything goes well, you’ll be well on your journey to building your family.
TRUST DR. DAN FOR COMPASSIONATE & QUALITY CARE
IVF is an involved procedure, often requiring several IVF cycles before a viable pregnancy. We understand it can be emotionally overwhelming, and are here to ease the process as much as possible. Dr. Dan and our team provide excellent, compassionate care, celebrating your successes and comforting you during the challenges.
Call us today to schedule a consultation and start your family’s story!