When you’re pursuing in vitro fertilization (IVF), a clinic will often provide you with an IVF calendar to help give you an overview of your upcoming cycle. It can be incredibly helpful to see exactly what medications you will be taking and when, what appointments you’ll need to make time for and how long the entire process should take. Knowing what to expect and mapping it out can not only help you plan but hopefully achieve the ultimate goal: a healthy pregnancy!
What Exactly Is IVF?
According to Resolve: the National Infertility Association, IVF is “a technique where a woman’s eggs and man’s sperm are combined in a special laboratory in order to create an embryo or embryos. Depending on the diagnosis and age of the woman, an embryo or embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus through her cervix to enhance the chances of pregnancy.” This means that depending on what IVF protocol your doctor is recommending; your IVF calendar can range anywhere from four to six weeks for one IVF cycle.
Putting Together an IVF Calendar
There is no “one” set IVF calendar. When your clinic provides you with an IVF calendar, it is based on what the doctor is recommending specifically for you. When you had your fertility work-up, your reproductive endocrinologist took blood work to look at various hormones such as your Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), Luteinizing hormone (LH), Estradiol and your Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH). Your AMH gave your doctor an idea of the quantity of follicles (each follicle ideally contains an egg) you have in your ovaries. These test results, along with any tests that your partner had, any previous fertility treatment you may have done previously and any diagnosis either of you have that may impact your reproductive health, will all be considered as your doctor works out an IVF protocol he/she feels you will best respond to.
What’s Included on an IVF Calendar
Once your protocol has been determined, a nurse, IVF coordinator or your doctor will review your IVF calendar and corresponding medication list. For some women, the IVF calendar may entail taking birth control pills to either help regulate her hormones or synchronize her hormones she’ll be taking. This is frequently referred to as “suppression”.
When the suggested period of time of ovarian suppression is complete, the next step on the IVF calendar is ovarian stimulation. This is a crucial time as you would begin taking injectable hormones that stimulate follicular growth, so you produce more eggs. You will be monitored closely during this time and these appointments will be reflected on your IVF calendar.
Based on your monitoring appointments, once your doctor feels your follicles have grown to a certain size indicating that the eggs are mature enough to be fertilized, he or she will advise you to take the trigger shot. You will be scheduled for the egg retrieval 36 hours after the trigger shot. After the egg retrieval, the eggs and sperm will be combined in a lab. Embryos produced are growing in the lab (In Vitro) and then, 3 to 5 days later, the embryo must be transferred into your uterus. You will have Progesterone supplementation as your Doctor indicates for this embryo development period to assure your endometrium (the inner wall of the uterus) will be prepared for the embryo implantation.
What You May Want to Add to Your IVF Calendar
Your doctor could recommend Pre-implantation Genetic Testing for Monogenic Diseases (PGT-M), formerly known as PGD or PGT-M, and/or Pre-implantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidy (PGT-A), formerly known as PGS. These tests would be performed on biopsies from any embryos created.
If you have a history of previous implantation failures,you may want to consider exploring the ERA Test. ERA stands for Endometrial Receptivity Analysis. According to Dr. Carlos Simon, taking into consideration the timing between the development of an embryo and the status of the endometrial lining can be key in achieving a pregnancy. With ERA testing, a biopsy of endometrial tissue is used to analyze the expression of 248 genes. This helps determine your implantation window. What’s important to realize is your window can differ from other women’s window.Having this additional information can assist your doctor so that they can factor this into your frozen embryo transfer (FET) protocol. The results of the ERA test may help a doctor better determine the ideal time for your FET.
While IVF can seem intimidating, talking through the process with your doctor, planning ahead and knowing all your options can help make things seem less overwhelming. Hopefully, with the help of your doctor, reproductive technology and your IVF calendar, you’ll be writing in, “Giving birth to a healthy baby!” in nine months on your own personal calendar!