In Vitro Fertilitization (IVF) Timeline

Bottles of medications in a pattern to spell out IVF and 3 syringes.

If you are headed into your first IVF, you may have questions about what a typical IVF schedule looks like. There are many different types of IVF and most cycles these days retrieve eggs, make embryos and then freeze them for embryo transfer later. 

Below is an excerpt from our book, Planting the Seeds of Pregnancy: An Integrative Approach to Fertility Care, covering a basic timeline for a fresh embryo transfer.

If you are considering IVF, here are the basic steps you should expect:

Preparing the ovaries with birth control pills. This step involves taking birth control pills for approximately three weeks to allow a good number of eggs to be recruited in the next step. While there are protocols for IVF without the use of birth control pills, this is the most common first step in IVF.

Ovarian stimulation with gonadotropins. This step involves taking daily injections of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) to stimulate the recruitment of multiple eggs.

Suppression of ovulation with an additional medication. Lupron® or antagonist medications (such as Cetrotide® or Ganirelix®) are given during the cycle to prevent ovulation during egg development.

Egg retrieval. A 15-20 minute procedure in which eggs are gently removed from the ovaries vaginally. In this procedure, a small needle is passed through the top of the vaginal wall under transvaginal ultrasound guidance into each follicle (the fluid sac surrounding the egg). The follicular fluid is drained with gentle suction, and the egg comes with the fluid into a tube. The patient is usually given intravenous medication/conscious sedation during this procedure to keep them comfortable.

Fertilization. In this step, eggs and sperm are combined with either conventional insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (see below).

Embryo development. The embryos are monitored and allowed to develop in the embryology lab.

Embryo transfer. A process in which an embryo or embryos are placed into the uterine cavity with a soft plastic catheter. The procedure will feel similar to a gynecology exam (pap smear) and takes approximately 5 – 10 minutes.

Supportive medications. The patient is usually given progesterone and estrogen medications to support the implantation and early development of the embryo(s). This medication usually continues into the first trimester.

A pregnancy test. The pregnancy test may be done 10 – 12 days after embryo transfer.