How Does Ovarian Stimulation Work in IVF?
Although in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a fairly common medical procedure, many people have only a vague understanding of how the process actually works. For example, most people know that eggs are taken from a woman and combined with sperm in a laboratory in order to create embryos, but they have very little knowledge of how the eggs are retrieved in the first place.
Understanding Ovulation and Ovarian Stimulation
Within the ovaries, eggs are formed and developed inside hundreds of thousands of ovarian follicles, which are small sacs filled with fluid. When an egg matures, it breaks through the follicle and is released during the process of ovulation. When unfertilized, the egg travels through the fallopian tube and into the uterus, where it breaks down with the uterine lining and is flushed out of the body via your period.
In traditional conception, the egg becomes fertilized by sperm while in the fallopian tube. When it arrives in the uterus, it attaches itself to the uterine wall where it develops into a fetus. In IVF, the fertilization process is taken outside the body and into a laboratory. However, instead of using just one mature egg, IVF uses a higher number of eggs in order to improve your chances of having a successful outcome. This is done through a process known as ovarian stimulation.
In ovarian stimulation, the ovarian follicles are prompted to produce, mature, and release more eggs than normal using hormonal medications: follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH). Specifically, FSH triggers egg growth within the ovarian follicles as well as increased production of estrogen, while LH causes the mature egg to be released from the ovary. These drugs are self-administered to the body using injections. The whole process typically takes around 9-11 days.
After Ovarian Stimulation
During this time, the follicles are monitored frequently via a combination of blood tests and vaginal ultrasounds. This is done to ensure that your hormone levels are at an optimal level for ovulation while also reducing the risk of complications such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
Using the results from these tests, your fertility specialist will determine the best date for egg retrieval. Once this date has been established, you are scheduled for an injection of a hormonal drug known as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which triggers the final stages of egg maturation.
About 35-36 hours after hCG administration, the fertility specialist performs a transvaginal oocyte retrieval procedure, which extracts eggs using an aspiration technique and a transvaginal ultrasound probe to help guide the needle. The doctor uses the needle to aspirate the fluid contents from the follicles and collects all the material into a test tube. The number of eggs taken is dependent on how well the ovaries responded to the hormonal stimulation.
If you are interested in learning more about the IVF process, contact Chelsea Fertility NYC today.