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In IVF, sperm and egg come together in a petri dish this much everyone knows. But exactly what are the steps in the IVF process, and what can you expect when you are going for your first round of invitro fertilization? Let's take a closer look.

Fertility medication

Only one egg and one sperm will ultimately be needed to create an embryo, but not all follicles that are retrieved will develop properly, and not all eggs will be fertilized. Egg retrieval, which we'll get to later, is a fairly invasive procedure as well. To ensure the best chances of success, IVF will start with fertility medication that helps as many follicles as possible to mature, and medication to induce ovulation at a certain time of the month to make the whole process more predictable, time-wise. This stage of the IVF process includes ultrasound monitoring to check the progress of the follicles in the ovaries, and other tests to examine whether you are on track. For this reason, it is often referred to as the monitoring phase of IVF.

Egg retrieval

Stage two of the IVF process is the egg retrieval process. How are mature follicles removed from the ovaries? Egg retrieval may sound scary, but it is a minor procedure in which a small tube is guided to the ovaries through the pelvic cavity. It would be slightly painful if it weren't for the local anesthetic that you will definitely be receiving. You may need to take the day off work the on the egg retrieval day itself, and perhaps even the following day. Some women have crampy and sensitive feelings in their abdomen for around a week after the egg retrieval.

Sperm collection and insemination

The next part of the IVF process, sperm collection, is straight forward in most cases. In some cases, the sperm collection part is a bit more complicated than an ejeculation. For some men, having sperm extracted from the testicles is the only way to obtain any sperm at all because of sperm delivery problems. Intracytomplasmic Sperm Injection is a variation on classical IVF in which one sperm is injected directly into one egg. ICSI is suitable in cases where not many sperm of good quality are available. Unless ICSI is carried out, sperm and egg are placed together in a petri dish, where sperm still have the famous battle over the egg, and one sperm will win, and inseminate one egg. After an egg or several eggs are fertilized, they are closely watched as they develop. On day three or day five, they are ready to be placed into the uterus.

Embryo transfer

The final stage of the IVF cycle is the one most couples undergoing this fertility treatment are most excited about; the day on which one embryo or more often several embryos are transferred to the uterus. After embryo transfer, there is nothing much a woman can do except wait. Every woman who has undergone an embryo transfer should follow her medical team's instructions about resting as much as possible. Read more about that in dos and don'ts after an embryo transfer.