IVF – It Involves a Petri Dish Right? {Part Two}

petri dish

Some people think there might be a petri dish involved in the IVF procedure, while others expect a doctor will insert my husband’s sperm into my uterus. The latter is false and is part of a procedure called an IUI. The former is true.

In vitro fertilization is the process of fertilizing an egg outside the human body. This may occur in either of two ways: by mixing mature eggs and sperm in a petri dish and letting nature take its course or by taking a single sperm and inserting it into an egg, which is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI (pronounced ick·see).

As you may already suspect, IVF is a little more complicated than just mixing sperm with eggs in a dish. We must, after all, obtain the eggs somehow.

IVF programs vary between institutes, so my program may encompass steps that another does not and vice versa. For reference, I am participating in the ART Institute of Washington at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. To simplify the program for the purpose of explaining it, I have grouped multiple processes into four overall (and unofficial) phases: prestimming, stimming, IVF/ICSI, and embryo transfer.

In the prestimming phase the doctor, for all intents and purposes, hijacks my menstrual cycle by placing me on birth control pills for a period of time to “quiet” my ovaries. My ovaries must not develop any follicles until they are told to do so. This is to ensure the doctors will not miss their opportunity to retrieve mature eggs. For me, this phase started on the second day of my last menstrual cycle in mid-December. I am in the third week already and have at least two weeks to go before I transition to the next phase.

In the stimming, or self-stimulating, phase, I will begin taking numerous drugs, most of which will be self-administered as subcutaneous injections, to stimulate my ovaries to produce multiple follicles. Once these follicles have reached a size that is sufficient to support a mature egg, I will trigger ovulation, which will help ripen the eggs for retrieval. This entire phase may take anywhere from nine to 14 days.

Within 36 hours of triggering, I will slip into the IVF/ICSI phase at which time the doctor will retrieve my eggs. By the time of my retrieval, they will already be preparing my husband’s sperm for fertilization, as well. Fertilization will occur within 12 hours of egg retrieval. Since we have only conceived once in the four years we have been trying, the doctors recommended ICSI. For us, this means a single sperm will be manually inserted into each mature egg. Once fertilized, the eggs will be monitored and graded over a period of three to five days to verify they are dividing properly, a good indicator of a viable embryo.

On the third or fifth day following fertilization, the doctor will transfer one (at most two) of the best embryos into my uterus. We will then have to wait a period of 10 to 14 days before we may take a pregnancy test to determine whether or not the embryo(s) implanted.


There you have it. The skinny on IVF and what it means.

What additional questions come to mind about IVF after reading this? 

 Did you miss Part One of this IVF post? Check it out HERE

Image via Flickr [kalibara87]

What do you think?

IVF – It Involves a Petri Dish Right? {Part Two}

Tammy Miesner recently joined the blogging community, combining her passion for writing and experience with infertility on her personal blog Womb Wasteland. She enjoys spending time with her active duty hubby and fur babies (two cats and a dog). Her interests include photography, reading, and genealogy. ... More

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  1. Good question. You are likely referring to preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Such a procedure occurs after fertilization but before the embryo is transferred to the uterus. It is used to check for genetic abnormalities and is a separate costly procedure from IVF. By searching for the term, I found this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18676894. Hope this helps.

  2. monsue87 says:

    I have a question that you may not be able to answer, but maybe you can tell me where to find it. If you have a genetic disease, can eggs that do not carry the gene for the disease be selected and fertilized as to prevent your child from having the disease later in life?

  3. I feel very blessed that I got pregnant the second time we tried without any form of assistance.


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