Steps of the IVF Timeline: How Long Do They Take?

By Toni Henning
Edited by Kelli Harris

Published November 16, 2021.

IVF treatment process timeline

Starting IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatment can be an exhilarating journey, but you also might feel apprehensive about the process ahead. However, the more you know, the more in control you'll feel, and with that in mind, we've put together a step-by-step timeline of what commonly takes place during IVF.

How does in vitro fertilization work?

What happens during IVF is that eggs are retrieved from the ovaries, inseminated with sperm, and the fertilized embryo is inserted into the woman’s uterus. A transvaginal ultrasound can identify abnormalities and help doctors diagnose conditions that may develop.

Step 1: Preparing for IVF

The following requirements and steps will help you prepare for the procedure.

How to prepare your body for IVF treatment

  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Take prenatal vitamins.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Don’t smoke, consume alcohol, or use recreational drugs.
  • Avoid traveling to any countries or regions where you might be exposed to infections, which could cause treatment delays.
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine.

Manage your stress before and during the IVF process

Activities like meditation, journaling, and joining an infertility support group are healthy activities to manage your stress associated with your upcoming fertility treatment.

Fear and anxiety associated with IVF are often due to a lack of knowledge about the procedure and its possible negative effects. Watch videos that walk you through the procedure step-by-step to help you understand the various phases.

How long does preparation last?

The preparatory period begins two to four weeks before your IVF cycle begins.

Step 2: Medication for Ovary Stimulation and Prevention

When does this begin?

Ovarian stimulation normally begins 2-4 days before a woman’s menstrual cycle and lasts for 10-12 days. IVF can begin on the fourth day of your cycle. Contact the clinic on the first day of your menstrual cycle to arrange for treatment.

How does it work?

You will start taking human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) injections to stimulate your ovaries to release more eggs than you usually do.

How long does this period last and when does it end?

36 hours after receiving the injection, you will have to go to the clinic to harvest the eggs.

When you find out that you are pregnant, the procedure is a success. If your pregnancy test is negative, you can start the IVF process again.

Step 3: Egg Retrieval

How long does this take?

The egg retrieval process takes 20 to 30 minutes with one to two hours recovery at the clinic, and then you may go home.

Step 4: IVF Fertilization Process and Progesterone Injections

Embryo culturing is the process of combining the eggs extracted from the ovaries with the partner’s or donor’s sperm in an artificial medium to produce a fertilized egg. Once the eggs have been fertilized, the culture procedure will continue to assist the embryo formation until they are ready to be transferred to the uterus, under the supervision of one of the qualified staff members.

Fertilization can be done using two types of IVF methods:

  • Conventional insemination. Healthy sperm and mature eggs are combined and incubated overnight.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) involves injecting a single healthy sperm straight into each maturing egg and is frequently used when sperm quality or quantity is an issue, or when fertilization efforts during previous IVF cycles have failed.

Progesterone helps in supporting implantation. The IVF process reduces your body’s natural capacity to produce progesterone. The hormone signals from the brain are interrupted due to the IVF medication preventing follicles from producing progesterone, which prevents ovulation. As a result, progesterone supplementation is essential in IVF.

How long does this take?

The hormonal injections required for the IVF treatment are administered almost every day for around 8-14 days.

Step 5: Embryo Transfer Process

A week after your eggs are harvested, your healthy embryo will be put back into your womb after the blastocyst stage. This is approximately five to six days after fertilization.

How long does this process take?

An embryo transfer is a 15 minute, non-invasive, pain-free procedure that can be performed in the fertility clinic.

Step 6: Taking a Pregnancy Test

How long after embryo transfer is this done?

After 9 to 12 days, your doctor will perform a scan to see if you are pregnant and do a blood test to check your pregnancy hormone levels.

How long can it take to fall pregnant this way?

In vitro fertilization success rate decreases with age, so IVF isn’t recommended for women over 42. The percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a pregnancy in 2019 was 32% for women under 35 and 25% for women aged 35 to 37.