The details on IVF

IVF. It’s a term you hear thrown around, but one you rarely think will apply to you. No one expects to get to this place, but if you’re here, know that you’re not alone. We’ve got your back.

Here’s a little bit about what
to expect

At the start of your IVF cycle, you may be prescribed medication to “turn off” your body’s control of your ovaries. This process, called down-regulation, suppresses ovulation hormones, wiping the slate clean so that fertility medications can do their thing. Down-regulation prevents ovulation, allowing your RE greater control over the timing of egg retrieval, and readies your body for step 1 (controlled ovarian stimulation) below.

Step 1:

Controlled ovarian stimulation (COS)

The ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs.

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  • In natural ovulation, only one egg is ovulated
  • With COS, the goal is to stimulate the development of multiple eggs to increase the chances of producing a healthy embryo
  • In order to produce multiple eggs, your doctor will stimulate follicle growth with one or more fertility drugs, and will monitor development
    Learn more about that here
  • When your follicles have grown to an appropriate size, you’ll receive a “trigger shot” (an injection of hormone[s]) to trigger the final maturation of the eggs ahead of egg retrieval (step 2)

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Step 2:

Egg retrieval

Eggs are retrieved from the follicles.

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  • Using a transvaginal ultrasound probe with a thin needle attached, your doctor draws the fluid and egg from each follicle
  • Your doctor will likely give you some form of pain medication for this procedure
  • The procedure takes less than an hour in the doctor’s office

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Step 3:

Sperm retrieval

Sperm is separated from the semen.

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  • Semen is obtained by masturbation, or a special condom is used during intercourse
  • If the male’s semen is void of sperm, it can also be obtained from the testicle

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Step 4:


Sperm is introduced to eggs.

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  • Partner or donor sperm will be mixed with your eggs
  • The next morning, an embryologist will check that the eggs are fertilized and developing properly and will continue to monitor

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Step 5:

Embryo transfer

Embryos are transferred directly into the uterus.

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  • Your doctor will work with you to determine how many embryos will be transferred, and at what time
  • More than one embryo increases the chance of pregnancy, but also increases the chance of multiples (twins or triplets)
  • Once the number is chosen, your embryo(s) are transferred directly into your uterus via a catheter

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What happens next?

In the time between egg retrieval (step 2) and embryo transfer (step 5), your reproductive endocrinologist (RE) may prescribe progesterone—a hormone that helps prepare the uterus for implantation and supports pregnancy. Progesterone can be continued for up to 10 weeks following a positive pregnancy test—so keep in mind that even when the steps above are over, you may still be on medication (either vaginally, orally, or via injection) for some time.

What are my chances?

According to a 2015 report from the CDC, 29% of IVF cycles resulted in a pregnancy

Get some guidance

My Fertility Navigator is designed to help you navigate the rocky road of fertility, from the moment you meet with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) to if/when you start IVF.

Sign up for My Fertility Navigator

Don’t forget to check your coverage

Not all insurance plans cover fertility treatment, so it's important to check your coverage before you start the IVF process. Here’s the truth: IVF isn’t cheap. That said, there are ways to manage the cost—even if your insurance doesn’t cover it.

Ways to save:


As of now, 15 states in the US have laws addressing fertility insurance coverage
(see a list here)

Fertility centers

Many fertility centers offer IVF refund programs that can help make the process more affordable— ask yours about financing options

Medication discounts

The IVF treatment you choose may come with medication-specific discounts—ask your RE if your medication offers any discounts or coupons

Financial assistance

Many organizations provide grants to help couples cover the cost of IVF
(see a list here)

About to start IVF?

My Fertility Navigator was made for you. 

My Fertility Navigator is a program designed to help women navigate the rocky road of fertility. Sign up, and you'll get information on next steps (whatever yours may be!), a guide to working with a reproductive endocrinologist, and more.

Sign up for My Fertility Navigator