What are the steps involved in IVF treatment in Spain?
IVF is a combination of medical and surgical procedures. It basically involves retrieving the eggs and sperm from the female and male donor, respectively, and putting them together to fertilize in the laboratory.
The embryos are then transferred to the woman’s uterus. The approach and method may slightly vary and some may need additional procedures and tests with the normal process. The best IVF clinics in Spain offer all kinds of tests and IVF methods to ensure the best results for the candidate.
The common steps of an IVF treatment include:
Ovarian stimulation: This involves giving medications in the form of injections to the woman. Controlled ovarian stimulation is to enhance the production of more than just one egg (as happens naturally each month).
This makes more viable eggs available for fertilization and increases the number of embryos that can be produced. The treatment can take 10 to 20 days depending on the IVF protocol being used.
The medical team monitors the progress during this time with assessments of hormone levels in the blood and ultrasound tests to check follicle development. These help the doctor keep track of the growth and development of follicles.
Egg retrieval: After the follicles are at least 19–21 mm in size, the doctor harvests the eggs at the end of the induction phase. For this, the first injection is given subcutaneously to induce oocyte maturation. It might be done around 36 hours before egg retrieval.
It is on an outpatient basis and the patient can go home the same day after the procedure or stay overnight in the hospital. The retrieval is performed in the operating room at a hospital and the patient is sedated and typically does not feel any discomfort.
The doctor uses a microscope to identify the oocytes that have been developed during the procedure. These are then isolated and classified based on how far along they are in the maturation process. In the second phase, the doctor will ask for a sperm sample from the partner or a donor. It is then prepared for insemination at a later point.
Fertilization: Once the eggs and sperm have been isolated, and these are then combined in a petri dish to allow fertilization to take place. The conventional IVF procedure involves placing an egg and a high quantity of viable sperm together in a petri dish.
However, some may go for an alternative procedure of ICSI, in which a single live sperm is directly injected into the egg. The petri dish is then stored in an incubator at 37°C to provide an appropriate atmosphere similar to those of the human body. The embryologist keeps a check on the progress of fertilized eggs and tracks the morphology and ability to undergo cell division.
Embryo transfer: In this phase, the doctor takes viable embryos and inserts them through the cervix, up to 1.5 cm from the uterine fundus. This involves a minor invasive procedure and involves the use of a special catheter for embryo transfer.
The medical team will determine the number of embryos to be transferred depending on several factors such as the patient’s age, the number of unsuccessful previous attempts, and the doctor’s opinion.
There might be mild discomfort, but no need to take painkillers, as the procedure is quick and painless. However, it is performed in an operating room in a clinic or hospital collaborated with an embryo laboratory.
The period of rest needed may vary from patient to patient and should be followed as per the doctor’s recommendations. Some patients may need to be treated with progesterone either vaginally or subcutaneously over the next few days, while others may receive oral, vaginal, or transdermal estrogen.
The woman is recommended to have a pregnancy test within 12 to 14 days after the transfer. A urine-based pregnancy test may help the patient find out the results of the test in privacy, but the doctor may later suggest a blood test to confirm the pregnancy.
Embryo vitrification: After the embryo transfer process, the other quality, viable embryos that have not been transferred are vitrified. This is done to preserve and use them in a later cycle without the need for further ovarian stimulation.