What is IVF?

Bourn Hall is proud to be the world’s first IVF clinic. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about IVF, including what it is, how it works and what happens during treatment.

If you have any further questions, please contact one of our clinics in the East of England to speak to our fertility experts.

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IVF – in vitro fertilisation – is the process of bringing eggs and sperm together in a carefully controlled environment to generate high-quality embryos.

In natural conception, the sperm and egg meet in the fallopian tube and begin the process of fertilisation. Physical, endocrine, and immune problems can prevent fertilisation from happening this way. Using IVF to introduce the sperm to the eggs in a carefully controlled environment can overcome these problems to create an embryo.

First, we collect the eggs. To help with this process, we use fertility drugs, which will stimulate your ovaries to create a number of eggs. Once you have produced some eggs, we harvest them with a minor surgical procedure. The collected eggs are then placed in a culture dish.

Next, we wash the semen – usually produced by masturbation – and, using a variety of techniques, select the best sperm. This then joins the egg in the culture and, over the next 18 hours or so, fertilisation occurs naturally.

After allowing a period of growth in culture, our skilled embryologists assess developing cell structure of the delicate embryos under a microscope. One or two are then transferred to your uterus.

In an initial consultation with one of our fertility specialists, you’ll agree on a treatment plan.

This involves taking IVF drugs for several weeks to both stimulate egg production and prepare your uterus to receive the embryos. The plan is individual, and the drug dosage and number of visits will depend on how your body responds.

You will need to visit Bourn Hall for scans and blood tests during this time, usually up to four times.
During these visits, you will be closely monitored, so we can assess your response to the medication, we’ll suggest any potential modifications to your treatment, and decide when to proceed to egg collection.

Egg collection is a minor surgical procedure, carried out by one of our specialists. It involves ultrasound-guided vaginal egg collection; the collected eggs are immediately passed to our on-site embryology laboratories.

Once your eggs are fertilised with sperm, we can transfer either one or two of the resulting embryos to your uterus. This is done through a narrow catheter passed through your cervix. Then – 18 days after egg collection – you’ll be able to take a pregnancy test. If this proves positive, you should attend the clinic about 20 days later for a pregnancy scan.

IVF may be an appropriate treatment in cases of unexplained or male factor infertility, if you have blocked fallopian tubes, or have experienced a lack of success with other fertility treatments, such as ovulation induction or IUI.