In vitro fertilization, also commonly known as IVF, has been used successfully since the 1970ís. It is the treatment of choice in cases of infertility when both fallopian tubes are blocked. However, IVF may also be used for unexplained infertility, endometriosis, cervical factor infertility, ovulation disorders, or when a man has a low sperm count. Approximately 25 to 35 percent of women who try in vitro fertilization conceive - however, the likelihood of success can vary from 0 percent to 70 percent depending on such factors the women's age, the reason for the infertility, and the experience of the IVF program.

IVF involves taking mature eggs from the female patient, fertilizing them with sperm in a dish in a specialized laboratory and then transferring the resulting embryos back to the patient's uterus 2 to 6 days after fertilization is confirmed.


It is important to follow all physician instructions regarding preparation for each procedure, including diet and medication.

  1. The female patient is given a hormonal treatment by her reproductive endocrinologist to stimulate the growth of egg-producing follicles.

  2. The female patient will go through a process called aspiration or egg retrieval in which her mature eggs are removed from her ovaries using a collection needle which is placed into each follicle . The aspiration is done transvaginally with ultrasound guidance under sedation. The physician performs the aspiration; however, an embryologist will be present at the procedure to identify and remove the eggs from the follicular fluid. The aspiration procedure generally takes 20 to 60 minutes. The patient will be monitored and released after an appropriate post-operative period of approximately 60-90 minutes. The patient must have someone to drive her home as she will have been under sedation during the procedure.

  3. The eggs are then taken to the IVF laboratory and placed in a dish and inseminated by sperm collected by the patient's partner on the day of the procedure, or with specimens that have been previously frozen and thawed. Fertilization may occur upon introduction of the sperm into the dish containing the eggs or it may be completed through intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Upon successful fertilization, the embryologist transfers the fertilized eggs (pre-embryos) to a different media for continued growth.

  4. After 2 to 6 days, the fertilized pre-embryos, which have been growing and dividing in the incubator, are examined and their development is evaluated. The pre-embryos that appear have the best potential to implant into the uterus are chosen. If needed, these pre-embryos undergo assisted hatching in which a small opening is made in the natural casing (egg shell) around the pre-embryo. This procedure increases the chances of a pre-embryo implanting into the uterus.

  5. On the day of transfer, the physician will verify the number of pre-embryos to be transferred. For transfer to the uterus, the embryologist will prepare the pre-embryos for the physician. The physician will then place the pre-embryos via catheter into the best uterine location. This is usually done transvaginally, with ultrasound guidance. Typically no sedation is needed for the transfer. The transfer generally takes 15 minutes. The patient will remain, lying down, approximately 15 to 30 minutes after the transfer and then she may go home.

Virginia IVF and Andrology Center encourages patients to bring favorite relaxing music on a CD or MP3 player, a favorite pillow, slippers, or other personal items for both aspiration and transfer.

For more information on the IVF process, please read from some of these sources:

American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Resolve: The National Infertility Association