How Does In Vitro Fertilization Work?

Sep 01, 2023
How Does In Vitro Fertilization Work?
Even though in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a well-known fertility treatment, you may question how it works, what steps are involved, and how it can lead to a successful pregnancy. Read on to get your questions answered.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 6 people worldwide struggle with infertility. Understandably, infertility can be frustrating and heartbreaking, and if you’re one of those affected by infertility, know that fertility treatments can be a beacon of hope on your journey to parenthood. 

Depending on the cause of your infertility, you have many options when it comes to fertility treatments. Here at Aurora OB/GYN, board-certified OB/GYN Karen Allsup, FACOG, MD, offers medication, surgery, intrauterine insemination, and in vitro fertilization (IVF) in our San Antonio, Texas, office.

In this blog post, let’s take a closer look at one fertility treatment in particular — IVF — and how it works. 

Quick IVF overview

IVF is a medical procedure where eggs are taken from your ovaries and combined with sperm in a laboratory dish. Afterward, the resulting embryos are placed back into your uterus, where the embryo(s) can implant.

IVF might be a suitable option for you if:

  • You and your partner are facing fertility challenges due to reasons like blocked fallopian tubes, male fertility problems, or unexplained infertility
  • You have specific medical conditions or genetic disorders, and you want to prevent passing them on to your future child 
  • You’re a woman of advanced maternal age and are struggling with fertility 
  • You’ve tried various fertility treatments without success 
  • You’re a same-sex couple or a single individual aiming to have a biological child, which can involve using donor eggs, sperm, or both
  • You’ve experienced recurrent pregnancy loss
  • You have medical conditions that make natural conception extremely challenging, such as severe endometriosis 

Remember, the suitability of IVF depends on your unique medical history and circumstances. Dr. Allsup determines whether IVF aligns with your needs and goals during your fertility consultation.

How IVF works

Now that you’ve explored what IVF is and might need it let’s highlight the steps you can expect during IVF treatments.

Start fertility medication to stimulate egg production

The first step to kicking off your IVF cycle is to take fertility medication. Normally, you produce one egg per month, but fertility medication stimulates your ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This helps increase your chances of having a successful IVF cycle.

Schedule your egg retrieval 

Once your eggs are mature, Dr. Allsup retrieves them via transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. Egg retrieval is a minor surgical procedure, but many women find it the most uncomfortable part of the IVF process. The good news is that it’s performed under mild sedation with analgesia to reduce your discomfort. 

Sperm collection and preparation 

On the same day as your egg retrieval, either your male partner or a sperm donor provides a sperm sample. The sperm is then prepared through sperm washing.


Once your eggs and the sperm are ready, they are combined in a controlled environment. The embryologist may perform intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). During ICSI, a single sperm is directly injected into one of your eggs.

Embryo culture and selection

The fertilized eggs are now called embryos, and they’re placed into a special incubator. Embryologists closely monitor these embryos, and the temperature, humidity, and gasses in the incubator are all carefully controlled. 

Embryo selection refers to choosing the most viable embryos to transfer to your uterus. The embryos may undergo preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) to help screen for genetic disorders as part of the selection process. 

Embryo transfer and luteal phase support 

Once the embryos are ready, it’s time to transfer them to your uterus in a painless procedure. Any extra viable embryos can be frozen for future use.

After your embryo transfer, you start the next phase of your IVF cycle: luteal phase support. Dr. Allsup provides hormonal medications (such as progesterone) to support your uterine lining and increase the chance of implantation. 

Take a pregnancy test

About 10-14 days after the embryo transfer, it’s time to take a pregnancy test!

After your positive test

If the pregnancy test is positive, congratulations! Regular monitoring and ultrasounds track the progress of your pregnancy (and confirm the number of embryos), and you continue on your journey to motherhood with routine prenatal care.

Struggling with infertility?

IVF is an intricate process that involves various stages and a strict timeline, but this technology has provided hope to countless couples around the world. If you’re struggling to conceive on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

To explore your fertility options, call us at 210-547-4700 or use our online form to get started.