Although each patient’s IVF schedule is individualized according to their own personal circumstances and needs, it can often be a comfort to have a general idea of the “typical” schedule. Whether you are trying to coordinate your IVF cycle with your work schedule, or just trying to familiarize with the process and how much time it is going to take, it is helpful to understand the average length of the IVF process. I was on birth control pills prior to the official start of my cycle – which was actually probably the worst part of it all (birth control has a tendency to make me a little crazy – one good reason I guess for never having a need for it). Women with regular menstrual cycles often get to skip the birth control and jump right into Lupron. Those who are instructed to take birth control usually overlap the last few pills with the beginning of lupron.
From the first day of lupron, which suppresses hormones to prevent ovulation, to the day of the pregnancy test is about a month. This can vary depending on how you respond to the hormones given to you later in the month and how your follicles and eggs are developing. You will take Lupron for about a week before you will then begin the FSH injections. FSH medications contain follicle stimulating hormones that are supposed to cause follicles containing eggs to develop in the ovaries. The Lupron and FSH medications (I was on Bravelle and Follistim is common) are given subcutaneously. I found the best spot to be in my belly, but they can also be given in the upper arm and thigh.
The day you start the FSH injections you will most likely be scheduled for a baseline ultrasound and blood will be taken to primarily test E2 levels (estradiol) and progesterone. This stage is called “stims” and you will take these shots for anywhere between 7 and 14 days with the average being about 9-10 days. Throughout the stim stage you will be monitored via ultrasound and your blood with be drawn. At the appointments the clinic will often determine the number of follicles developing and measure them to get an idea of when you should “trigger” and how you are responding. Once it is determined that you are ready to ovulate you will be given an HCG injection which causes the eggs to mature.
You are usually given very specific instructions on when to take the HCG injection allowing the clinic to best schedule your upcoming egg retrieval. Two days later you will undergo the retrieval procedure and the following day will begin your progesterone treatment. The majority of patients are prescribed Progesterone in Oil (PIO) but some are given vaginal creams or suppositories. After the retrieval procedure your eggs are given the opportunity to fertilize and the embryos are monitored to determine if a day three or day five transfer is best for you. Three or five days after the egg retrieval you will have your transfer procedure. Your clinic will then schedule you for a blood pregnancy test (or beta) about 14 days from the retrieval procedure and you will officially be in the brutal two week wait. This schedule really varies from person to person depending on a lot of different factors but hopefully that gives you a good idea of what to generally expect – from start to finish a typical IVF cycle takes a little more than a month.