In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a medical process that might help you have a baby if you can’t conceive naturally. For some people, IVF is immediately successful. For others, the journey to parenthood can be more drawn out, with many ups and downs.

About IVF

IVF is a way of bringing human eggs and sperm together outside the human body. The aim is to fertilise the eggs and create an embryo. IVF involves many steps, which take several weeks to complete.

If you’re interested in IVF, the first step is to talk with your GP, who can give you some basic information about it and refer you to a specialist. You might also consider speaking to a specialist fertility counsellor about the process and journey of IVF. You can get a referral to a fertility counsellor through your GP or IVF clinic.

These are the main steps in the IVF process:

  • Ovary stimulation: if you’re a woman having IVF treatment, you need to take hormones to stimulate your ovaries so that you make more than one egg per menstrual cycle.
  • Collection: healthy eggs and sperm are collected from you and your partner. Sometimes you might use a sperm or egg donor, depending on your circumstances. You’ll need to go to hospital and have a short procedure to have your eggs collected.
  • Fertilisation: the eggs and sperm are mixed using special equipment in a laboratory. If the sperm fertilises the egg, an embryo starts to grow.
  • Embryo transfer: the embryo is put into the uterus during a short procedure in hospital. This is usually five days after the egg collection.
  • Pregnancy test: the last step is a pregnancy test. This is done with a blood test around two weeks after the embryo transfer.

Chances of success with IVF
Your chances of falling pregnant with IVF depend on many things, including your age and health. Some women go through many rounds of IVF before they fall pregnant. For some women, IVF doesn’t work at all.

Costs
IVF can cost several thousand dollars, even with private health insurance and the Medicare rebate. Make sure you speak to your doctor or clinic about costs before you start any treatment. Different clinics might charge different prices for treatment.

Twins used to be very common in IVF pregnancies, because the process usually involved transferring at least two embryos. Today it’s usual to transfer just a single embryo in each round of IVF.

Your feelings about IVF

If you’ve decided to try IVF, you might have been trying for a baby for quite a while. You might already be feeling frustrated and worried.

It’s hard not to get your hopes up about falling pregnant with IVF, although you might try to tell yourself not to get too excited. If IVF isn’t successful in the first round, it’s natural to feel disappointed. Your feelings can be even more complicated if you’ve gone through several rounds of IVF. You might start to wonder whether it’s going to happen for you.

Your feelings during IVF treatment might be affected by the hormones that you have to take, which can make you feel more emotional than usual. Some parts of the treatment might affect the way you feel about your body. And some parts might leave you feeling physically uncomfortable, which can affect your emotions too.

The costs of IVF might cause you stress, especially if you’ve gone through several rounds of IVF already.

For all of these reasons, IVF can be a challenging experience.

Anyone who’s been through the experience of infertility then IVF will tell you it’s an emotional roller-coaster of anxiety, waiting and unpleasant medical treatment that involves lots of hormone treatment. It really makes you appreciate what a miracle conception is.
– Jess, mother of one

Help and support for people using IVF

If you’re feeling stress or anxiety, this is normal during IVF treatment. But you don’t have to deal with it by yourself. Try talking to a trusted friend or family member about how you’re feeling. It’s also a very good idea to speak with your GP, who can help you get the support you need.

If you’re going through IVF, it’s important to look after your physical health with plenty of exercise, healthy food and rest. If you feel physically well, you’ll be able to cope better with stress.

The IVF experience can sometimes put a strain on your relationship with your partner. It’s important to keep talking and listening to each other as you go through the experience. And if things get tough, you could try talking to Relationships Australia, Family Relationships Online or a local relationships counsellor.

When you have an IVF baby

Looking after a newborn is hard work. But if you’re a new parent with a baby conceived through IVF, you might feel that you can’t complain, and that you should just be grateful for having the baby you’ve always wanted.

It’s always OK to ask for help when you need it, and there are lots of people who can help you, including your GP and your child and family health nurse.

You can also get free parenting advice in every state of Australia by calling a parenting hotline.

Read more about getting support for parenting.

There are so many hurdles with IVF – you have to have good eggs, enough of them, they must be fertilised successfully, then they must implant. Those weeks dragged by, none more than the dreaded two-week wait after the embryo had been implanted. All the while we were gearing ourselves up for the worst at every stage, protecting ourselves so we wouldn’t fall too hard if things didn’t work out.
– Jess, mother of one

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Last updated or reviewed
16-10-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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