Learning you need assistance to conceive a baby often comes after a long period of trying on your own and waiting for a positive pregnancy test that hasn’t happened.
You’ve made the decision to seek the help of a fertility specialist – which should be applauded, as the act of doing so indicates your resolve and dedication to your family building goals.
At this point, you are likely eager to get the process started and expand your family, and you might be wondering how long the IVF process takes from start to finish?
How long will it take to do an IVF cycle once I start?
The IVF cycle itself takes around four weeks, the length of a normal ovulation cycle. Treatment begins only after initial fertility testing is completed. Fertility testing includes assessing your ovarian reserve or egg quality, uterine cavity evaluation, and semen analysis.
In addition, we want to make sure you are at your healthiest before conceiving. This will involve a medical evaluation that ranges from looking at any genetic carrier screening risks, to mild or moderate elevations with your blood sugar. Certain medical conditions may warrant lifestyle modifications that will optimize a future pregnancy and make it easier for you to conceive.
When including a 90-day preconception health regiment and fertility testing, the entire process can take up to 120 days, or 4 months.
Why is the 90-Day Preconception Health Regiment Included in the IVF Timeline?
A healthy body has the best chance of success. Even small changes to your nutrition and lifestyle in the months before IVF can aid in a successful IVF cycle and healthy pregnancy. For this reason, the ideal time to start incorporating a preconception checklist is three months before the start of an IVF cycle.
During this time, you should begin the physician-approved program, which will likely include taking prenatal vitamins, increasing your water intake, improving your sleep hygiene and eating a balanced and nutritious diet. Limiting alcohol and caffeine, ceasing smoking, and incorporating low impact exercise will also prepare your body for the rigor of fertility treatment and pregnancy.
Now would be an excellent time to identify your emotional support network as well as inquire about your insurance benefits. Your fertility doctor will even begin testing you for various risk factors.
In the 30 days before your IVF cycle, your doctor will begin pretreatment tests. Common IVF pre-testing includes a comprehensive a blood panel (including checking titers to see about immunization boosters and genetic carrier screening), a saline sonogram to ensure your uterine cavity is healthy before the embryo transfer, vaginal ultrasounds, screenings for infectious diseases, and male fertility testing.
Male fertility accounts for up to 40% of infertility problems. Testing includes a semen analysis, where the quantity and quality of sperm is evaluated. As sperm is produced every 64 days, the preconception checklist applies to the male partner as well. Sperm is evaluated for count, morphology, and motility.
Finally, the IVF cycle begins and can take up to six weeks until a pregnancy blood test can detect a pregnancy.
What are the stages of IVF?
Once diagnostic testing is complete, the IVF cycle begins.
Stage 1: Oral Contraceptives - Birth Control
Although counterintuitive, IVF patients will start oral contraceptives for 10-14 days before starting fertility medications. When taken before ovarian stimulation, studies show that oral contraceptives can increase the number of eggs available for retrieval, ensure follicles grow as a cohesive group, and support ovarian health throughout IVF.
Stage 2: Fertility Medication - Stimulation
After completing a course of oral contraceptives, the fertility patient begins injections of fertility medication for approximately nine to eleven days. The fertility medications consist of naturally occurring hormones that help develop and mature your follicles (eggs are housed within the follicles).
The number of follicles and their size determine how many mature, eggs will be available for retrieval. During this time, you should plan to be in your fertility program’s office approximately every other day for a vaginal ultrasound and blood monitoring.
Stage 3: Egg Retrieval
Egg retrieval refers to a one-day procedure where the eggs are extracted from the ovarian follicles and are sent to an IVF lab to fertilize and divide. Research supports that day 5 of embryo growth (blastocyst stage) yields higher success rates than transferring the embryo back to the uterus on day three (zygote stage).
RMA of Connecticut likes to see embryos divide and multiply for five days, as research shows better pregnancy rates are achieved using this timeline.
Stage 4: Embryo Transfer
After fertilization, the embryo will be transferred back to the uterus on day 5. Retrieval day is considered day 0. The embryo transfer is also a one-day procedure that should take approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
You will be awake for this procedure, and you will not require any anesthesia. Following this is a waiting period to see if the embryo implants in the uterus, which typically takes 9-10 days depending on the maturity of the embryo at the time of transfer.
Do I need preauthorization for IVF?
The cost of IVF is a primary fear in seeking out treatment. The good news is that many insurance companies do provide benefits for fertility tests and procedures, although it varies by state and employer. Depending on the type of insurance plan you have, your policy may require that you obtain referrals or authorizations. Past just a phone call to your insurance company, we suggest you request a written pre-determination letter that outlines your benefits and the requirements that must be met for you to be covered.
This step might be necessary for both you and your partner if you carry individual insurance. To avoid delays, seek out this information as soon as IVF becomes a consideration.
Knowing how stressful this process can be, RMA of Connecticut appoints you a financial and insurance advocate to help you communicate with your insurance company and understand your coverage.
We will help determine your level of coverage, out-of-pocket expenses, and review with you the specifics details of your plan. Our goal is to help you understand your benefits before you start treatment.
Why do I have to start IVF the month before my egg retrieval?
An IVF cycle corresponds with the length of a normal ovulation cycle, which is about a month long. Ovulation occurs when a mature egg is released from the ovary and pushed down the fallopian tube where it can be fertilized, or in the case of IVF, retrieved.
The goal of IVF is to prepare and stimulate the ovaries to produce many mature eggs for retrieval and ready your uterus for implantation. Ovarian preparation and stimulation occur at the start of and during the ovulation cycle.
How long after the IVF cycle does it take for the embryo to implant?
Depending on the maturity of the embryo, it can take between one and five days after the transfer. But you won’t know if you are pregnant until taking a pregnancy test about nine days after the transfer.
How long after my IVF cycle before I find out if I’m pregnant?
Between anxiety and excitement, waiting for pregnancy results can be the hardest part of the treatment. But a pregnancy test won’t be reliable if done too early. To detect actual amounts of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone produced by the placenta after implantation, a pregnancy blood test is performed about 9 days after the transfer.
What will make my IVF cycle take longer?
Sometimes the body doesn’t respond as expected to IVF medications and stimulation, which can delay or cancel your IVF cycle. For example, there might be a delay or cancelation if a lower number of follicles develop in the ovaries than expected, meaning fewer eggs were produced.
Sometimes hormone levels are not ideal for continuing an IVF cycle, and delaying can lead to better odds of success. Although this can be emotionally difficult news to receive, every cycle is diagnostic as well as therapeutic. Your fertility doctors (board certified reproductive endocrinologists) will know more for the next cycle- it does not sentence you to the same fate should you decide to continue with IVF treatments.
Another reason the IVF cycle can take longer than expected is the decision to have the embryos undergo genetic testing before embryo transfer. PGT-A, preimplantation genetic testing- aneuploidy is the newest iteration of this type of testing. PGT-A can offer the highest degree of certainty for a genetically healthy child, particularly when partners are known carriers or at higher risk for passing on genetic diseases. The testing might add 4-5 weeks to the process.
Whatever the cause for delay, RMA of Connecticut understands that fertility treatments can be challenging and painful. Should there be a delay or cancellation, your doctor and the rest of your team at your fertility program will review your case and make necessary adjustments. We will be with you every step of the way.
Are you ready to talk more about the IVF process?
Schedule your initial consultation today!