In-Vitro Fertilization—Step By Step

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is a safe and effective treatment option for women who are suffering from fertility problems. Whether the cause of infertility is caused by ovarian failure, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or hormonal disorders, IVF may help you get pregnant. While many people are familiar with in-vitro fertilization, they may not be aware of what is actually involved in each step of the treatment. Here is an explanation of each step of the IVF procedure.

Fertility Drugs

After your IVF doctor has evaluated your reproductive organs, he or she will prescribe fertility drugs to stimulate your ovaries to prepare your eggs for retrieval. Fertility drugs help your ovaries produce multiple eggs because you are more likely to become pregnant if you have a higher number of matured eggs.

Fertility drugs used in the in-vitro fertilization procedure are typically injected and your doctor will monitor your response to the drugs via hormonal blood tests and ultrasounds. Once your ultrasound reveals that your follicles are large and healthy enough, you will receive an injection of another medication to further help your eggs mature so that they can be fertilized. 


After your eggs have matured, you will undergo egg retrieval surgery to remove your eggs. You will not feel any pain during your egg retrieval procedure because the anesthesiologist will administer intravenous sedation.

During the retrieval procedure, your doctor guides a needle into your ovary and using a gentle suction action, the egg will be extracted along with its follicular fluid. Retrieving multiple eggs take approximately half an hour, and while you will not be in any severe discomfort, you may experience mild cramping for the first day or so. 

Egg Fertilization

The next step in the IVF process is egg fertilization. Your matured eggs will be placed in a special solution and then placed inside an incubator. Within a couple of hours, they will be fertilized with sperm. The sperm is combined with the egg in a petri dish and then they are both placed back inside the incubator. The next morning, the status of the sperm and egg is assessed to determine if fertilization has taken place. Nothing needs to be done to the sperm and the egg, as the sperm will find its way into the matured egg without any help. 

Transfer and Pregnancy Test

After fertilization, the embryo transfer will be performed. During the transfer, the physician will select the appropriate embryo and transfer it into your uterus. After your embryo has been transferred into your uterus, you will take a pregnancy test. The pregnancy test usually is performed two weeks or so after the transfer. If you become pregnant, your IVF doctor will refer you back to the obstetrician. 

If you believe your fertility is impaired, make an appointment with your gynecologist, who may refer you to an IVF physician for further evaluation and treatment.