IVF quick-fire questions

When you are told IVF is a viable option for you, to achieve your dream of parenthood, your mind starts racing with questions and you want the answers to be quick and direct

Knowledge is key to enhancing your success, so do your research thoroughly, talk to your doctor and take some time to look through the articles on First Steps.

In the meantime, we have listed some of the most frequently asked questions with some quick-fire answers, just to give you an idea of what to expect…

What exactly is IVF in a nutshell?

IVF is the process of fertilization by combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus.

For a more detailed understanding of the IVF process, head to IVF Explained. 

How long does IVF take from start to finish?

An IVF cycle can take up to 2 months to complete. Every person is different though and your doctor will discuss the best plan for you. However, to give you an idea, the basic outline of a cycle is as follows:

 Pre-Cycle Appointments and testing

 Down regulation: 2-4 weeks

 Ovarian Stimulation: 8-14 days (start of treatment)

 Monitoring: Starting Day 5 of stimulation

 Trigger Shot: Between Day 8 and 12 of stimulation

 Egg Retrieval: 36 hours after trigger shot

 Embryo Development in the Lab: 2-5 days

 Embryo Transfer: 3-5 Days After Egg Retrieval

 Pregnancy Test 2 weeks later

Treatment timelines will need to be adjusted based on how each patient responds to their medication. Take a look through IVF Explained for a more detailed explanation of the stages of IVF.

How long is the waiting list?

The length of waiting lists for NHS-funded IVF treatment really does vary depending on where you live. In some areas, couples can wait for two or three years to begin treatment, in others they’ll wait just a few months.

If you choose to go private, the speed of treatment can be much faster and you don’t need to meet the strict criteria of the NHS. Some clinics can start treatment within six weeks after referral by a doctor. 

Do I need to take time off work once I start treatment?

During stimulation, you will need to have appointments at your clinic every other day to monitor the development of your follicles and hormone levels. The monitoring stage can take up to 10 days, so you may suffer some disruption at work if you can’t get an early appointment. You will need to take the day off work for egg retrieval, and although not necessary, you may also want to take a couple of days off once you have had the embryo transfer. 

Will there be a huge amount of drugs and injections to take?

The amount of medication and frequency of injections is different for each person.

Before stimulation starts, you may be given the oral contraceptive. To suppress your ovaries you will be given drugs in the form of a nasal spray or daily injections. Once downregulation is complete, you will be required to inject follicle-stimulating and ovulation regulating hormones each day via small needles. The needle is very small and most women are surprised at how painless the daily shots actually are. The day after egg retrieval, you will be given Progesterone supplements or injections.

Will the drugs affect me mentally and physically?

Not everyone suffers from side effects. However, you will be taking hormone injections, so you may feel emotional during treatment. It is not uncommon for women during down regulation to experience headaches, night sweats, and mood swings. During stimulation, you may feel bloated and mildly uncomfortable. 

How likely is IVF to work?

According to the HFEA, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was 32.2% for women under 35. 

Between 2014 and 2016 the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:

29% for women under 35

23% for women aged 35 to 37

15% for women aged 38 to 39

9% for women aged 40 to 42

3% for women aged 43 to 44

2% for women aged over 44

How many attempts do I get on the UK’s NHS?

Generally, you are given between one and three attempts, but this is totally dependent on your local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who decide whether to fund IVF treatment on the NHS. Follow this link to see if you are eligible for IVF on the NHS:

How much does it cost to go private?

One cycle can cost between £4,000 and £10,000. Some London clinics charge over £15,000. Don’t expect medical insurance to cover the cost. They’ll pay up for infertility tests but not the treatment.

Most ‘standard’ IVF fees at clinics don’t include any special medication, culturing your embryos to blastocyst stage (to improve chances of success) or transferring them – the cost can be £1000 to £2500 extra.

Take a look at Funding IVF – Coping with the cost

Can I exercise during IVF?

Thrashing it out in the gym can be damaging to fertility as is doing too little exercise; it can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can interfere with reproductive functions.

Can I drink alcohol during my IVF?

Studies have shown that alcohol use in men or women during an IVF cycle can have a negative effect on cycle outcomes, specifically failure of fertilization. For this reason alone most doctors say stay away from alcohol. However, others say the odd glass now and then won’t hurt. Talk to your doctor, look at the research and make up your own mind about what is right for you.

What can I do to get ready for my IVF?

You can plan three months ahead because an egg’s cycle takes 90 days, so what you eat, drink, breathe in, how you treat your body and the health of your blood flow can affect the egg’s health. It makes sense to give your body the nutrients it needs as the eggs develop and reduce the stress that comes your way.

Alternative therapies can give your body and mind a boost too. The life cycle of sperm, from production to maturation ranges from 42-76 days and so it is equally as important for men to make a plan for increasing fertility and boosting sperm health at least 2-3 months prior to giving sperm for IVF.

Take a look at If IVF’s right for you, can you boost your chances of success?

How long do I have to wait in between cycles if one fails?

A minimum of one month in between cycles is recommended between treatments.


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