If you’ve been considering In Vitro Fertilization ( IVF) treatment, there are bound to be times when you are flummoxed by the medical jargon you get to hear around you. While you may understand some of it, there are times when you won’t. Though it can be unnerving to hear so many different terms related to IVF, it is crucial that you have clarity about every stage of the treatment.
Ovarian Stimulation- The First Stage
The first stage of IVF treatment is Ovarian Stimulation, also known as superovulation. In order to understand what occurs in this stage, you need to understand how ovulation occurs. In a normal ovulatory cycle, the woman’s natural hormones dictate when that only one egg will mature and be released, while the others ones which also start growing every cycle will die ( a process called atreasia). For IVF, because we want you to grow many eggs, we need to give you a helping hand by using natural hormones. These are the same hormones your body produces normally during a regular menstrual cycle. We increase the dose to prevent your eggs from dying, so that we can collect lots of mature eggs. We control the process carefully to optimizes the quality of your oocytes . Before your ovaries are stimulated, you will be given medication to suppress your natural hormones. This is called downregulation and prevents you from ovulating before the egg collection.
How Ovarian Stimulation Works
In any normal ovulation cycle, 1 egg matures per month. However, in an IVF cycle, it’s important to get as many eggs as possible as this increases your odds of IVF treatment success.
• In the ovarian stimulation phase of an IVF cycle, injectible medications are first used for around 8-14 days. These stimulate the ovaries and many mature eggs start to grow . These ovarian stimulation medications are all derivatives from the FSH and LH hormones; these are the hormones which are involved in a natural ovulation process. While certain protocols use only FSH , many will also use a combination.
You need to come to the clinic around 3-4 times. These appointments consist of:
- Transvaginal Ultrasound scans to measure the growth of your follicles ; and the thickness of your uterine lining. Both should steadily be increasing as your follicles grow in response to the injectible medications
- Blood tests – This measures your estrogen levels. These allow us to monitor the growth and the maturation of your eggs, and will rise as the follicles grow
Ask Relevant Questions
At this time, your IVF doctor will give you instructions and clarify any doubts you may have. You will also be informed about how your cycle is progressing; in case there are any changes in the medication, you will be informed about that too. The doctor will also tell you when you have to return for your next appointment. It is at this point that you should be asking the doctor questions about your IVF cycle (if you have any), the test results and about any side-effects that you may be having.
The IVF procedure can be quite complex and its difficult for patients to understand how it all works. However, it’s crucial that you conduct a certain amount of research, get clarification from your doctor and be a well-informed patient. This will help you deal with your infertility and go through your treatment in a much better way.
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