In Vitro Fertilization
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
In vitro fertilization (IVF) joins sperm and an egg outside of the body to make an embryo. The embryo can then be put into a woman's uterus.
Reasons for Procedure
IVF can be done when pregnancy does not happen naturally.
It is most often done when infertility is due to:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
During egg harvesting, the doctor may give:
The embryo transfer does not use anesthesia.
Description of the Procedure
An ultrasound probe with a needle is guided into the vagina. The needle is used to remove fluid from the follicles of the ovaries. This fluid contains eggs. It is placed in a dish and kept in an incubator.
A sperm sample from the woman's partner or from a donor is added to the eggs. Sperm may be injected into an egg to improve the chance of fertilization. The eggs are then monitored. Once fertilized, early cell division begins and embryos develop.
About 2 to 6 days after fertilization, a tube is inserted into the vagina and guided through the cervix and into the uterus. One or more embryos are placed into the uterus. The tube is removed.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
Pain and cramping are common for a few days after the egg harvesting and transfer. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
You will be able to go home the same day.
At the Care Center
Right after the transfer, the staff may have you rest for a few hours before going home. You will also be given an appointment to return for a pregnancy test.
Some activities may be limited after the transfer.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Reproductive Facts—American Society for Reproductive Medicine
The Infertility Awareness Association of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Lindsay TJ, Vitrikas KR. Evaluation and treatment of infertility. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Mar 1;91(5):308-314.
Treatment of infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname... . Accessed August 5, 2020.
What is in vitro fertilization (IVF)? American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at: https://www.reproductivefacts.org/faqs/frequently-asked-questions-about-infertility/q05-what-is-in-vitro-fertilization/. Accessed August 5, 2020.
What is IVF? The National Infertility Association website. Available at: https://resolve.org/what-are-my-options/treatment-options/what-is-ivf/. Published Summer 2012. Accessed August 5, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 02/24/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.