How Long Will Treatment Take?
For couples contemplating fertility treatment, the duration of treatment is a major concern. The waiting period for fertility treatment usually depends on the type of treatment chosen. Normally, each cycle takes 6 to 8 weeks but it may be slightly longer for the Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) procedure due to prolonged healing time and extend hospital stay.
Fertility is a very delicate process that is dependent on ovulation. Ovulation is under the regulation of external hormones during fertility treatments. This external control requires time for the successful maturation and recruitment of viable eggs.
Initial StagesDuring the initial stages, ovarian activity is slowed down with the help of hormones; these changes are continually monitored by Ultrasonography. This slow down process itself may take a 3- 10 days sometimes even longer if the individual is slow to respond to fertility treatment.
When the natural process is sufficiently reduced, the ovaries are then artificially stimulated using hormones such as FSH follicle stimulating hormone. Stimulation of the ovaries is a process which takes another 2 weeks to reach its effective potential. The medications are then discontinued at the pre-determined stage of follicles formation. The follicles however continue to mature in preparation for ovulation, which may require another day or two. Once the follicles have fully matured, they are retrieved using a fine needle guided by ultrasound. This delicate procedure draws the eggs ever so gently, being careful not to compromise their delicate structure.
The time line for ova recruitment is usually consistent for most fertilisation procedures. The remaining period varies from procedure to procedure:
Gamete Intra Fallopian TransferThe ova are mixed with the already washed and prepared sperm and placed in the fallopian tubes. This requires a small laparoscopic incision of the abdomen for access to the tubes and is done under mild anaesthesia. This procedure may take about 30 minutes to over an hour. The total time of the procedure is much longer, about 2-3 days due to an extended hospital stay.
IVFIn IVF, fertilisation takes place outside the natural environment, in a laboratory. The fertilised embryos are then transferred back into the womb for continued growth and maturation. This process is highly variable due to the lag time of In-Vitro fertilisation, but one should expect another 1-2 weeks of waiting after egg recruitment.
It is important to understand the difference between implantation and pregnancy. Just because a procedure of implantation is successful doesn’t necessarily mean that a pregnancy is imminent. A pregnancy occurs only when the embryo gets embedded into the uterine wall and starts growing.
IVF is non-invasive and can be carried out with mild sedation and local anaesthesia. So you can undergo this method in the clinic or the hospital and return home after a few hours. Whereas, GIFT requires generalised anaesthesia for laparoscopic procedure (a minimally invasive surgical method) and needs admission into the hospital for a short stay usually 48-72 hrs.
After any of the above procedures, if successful, the pregnancy test usually becomes positive only after 10-12 days from the successful implantation of the embryo. The above methods of treatment are highly dependent on the availability of good eggs.
If eggs are stored, the procedures can be repeated again until pregnancy occurs saving the recruitment time. Chances of pregnancy are higher if the woman is young and the eggs and sperm are healthy. If the procedure is not successful and eggs are not stored, the process will have to be reinstated from the beginning. Fertility is a delicate process requiring a lot of time, tremendous patience, money and even still, luck. Continued support from loved ones and dedication can help ease this journey towards pregnancy.