Everything You Wanted To Know About IVF And The Support Available During Your Journey

IVF or In Vitro Fertilisation is one of the ways in which medical intervention can help people who have fertility problems have a baby. It can be an involved and confusing process, and it can feel a little overwhelming.




Who Can Have IVF


There are some criteria that you must meet before you can be offered IVF with the NHS.

Women under 43 can be offered three IVF cycles if they have been trying to get pregnant for two years or if they haven’t been able to get pregnant after 12 cycles of artificial insemination, with 6 of those cycles using intrauterine insemination.

The final decision about who can have NHS-funded IVF is made by local integrated care boards (ICBs).

If you decided to pay for IVF or you are not eligible for NHS treatment, you can be treated through a private clinic.


What Happens During IVF


The first step in IVF is to talk to your GP. They will advise you on methods to try. Your GP will be able to refer you to a fertility specialist. What happens next in the IVF process can depend on individual clinics, but as a general guideline, most treatments will be follow a similar process to below.


For Women


Step One

The first step is that you will be given medication that will suppress your natural menstrual cycle. This can make the medicine used in the next stage of treatment more effective. The medicine is taken daily as an injection or a nasal spray which you can continue for around 2 weeks.


Step Two

After your cycle has been suppressed, medicine is used to encourage your ovaries to produce more than 1 egg at a time. This medicine is called a follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). As FSH helps to increase the number of eggs, this allows more eggs to be collected and fertilised during treatment.


Step Three

You will be closely monitored throughout the process and have an ultrasound to check the development of the eggs. Medicine is used to help the eggs mature. This is an injection of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG).


Step Four

The next step is to collect the eggs. This procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes. You’ll be sedated, and the technician will collect the eggs with a needle that is passed through the vagina and into the ovary. This will be monitored and guided by an ultrasound. You may have some cramping, or light vaginal bleeding after this.


Step Five

When the eggs have been collected, they will then be fertilised. Some cases may need an extra procedure known as ICSI where the egg is injected with a single sperm. Fertilised eggs will grow for up to 6 days in the laboratory. The best embryo, or two will be chosen for transfer. After the egg collection, you will be given a hormone to prepare the uterus lining for the embryo transfer.


Step Six

When the embryo, or embryos are ready, they will be transferred into your uterus. This is done using a catheter passed into the vagina. The number of embryos transferred will be discussed before the treatment starts, but this usually depends on your age. Any viable left over embryos may be frozen for future attempts.



For Men


When your partner is having the egg collection procedure, you will need to provide a fresh sperm sample. The sperm will then be washed, spun at high speed, and only the healthiest, most active sperm are selected.


Pregnancy Test


Two weeks after the embryo transfer you will be able to take a pregnancy test. Some clinics ask that you carry out a test at home and advise them of the result. Others will want you to come into the clinic for a blood test.




As with any medical treatment, there are potential risks and side effects. These can include:

  • Hot flushes and headaches
  • Multiple births
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome – a condition where the ovaries overreact to medicines used during IVF.
  • An ectopic pregnancy, which is when the embryo implants in the fallopian tube rather than in the uterus.


Support During Your IVF Journey


IVF treatment is mentally, emotionally and physically draining. There is help and support available, and you should access it in whichever form you feel most comfortable with.

Counselling is recommended before treatment begins, during it and after. Counselling allows you to talk to a professional and come to understand your feelings, the treatment, and potential outcomes. Counselling can be offered if IVF has not been successful.

You may also find it helpful to join an online, or in-person support group where you can talk to other people who are also undergoing IVF treatment.