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Sperm cells swimming toward an egg to fertilise

IVF treatment

Within this section, you can find information explaining everything about IVF, including what it is, how it works, fertility challenges it can overcome, success rates and costs.

What is IVF?

IVF (in vitro fertilization) is a fertility treatment where fertilisation happens outside of the body. It is one of several techniques available to help people with fertility problems have a baby.

During the IVF process, eggs are fertilised with sperm in a lab, using either your own eggs and sperm or using donor eggs and sperm. A fertilised egg is called an embryo, which can then be transferred back into the uterus to grow or frozen for transfer later on.

IVF is usually referred to as a cycle, with distinct stages during a cycle. There’s more information on each stage of the IVF process step by step below.

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The IVF Process with Professor Charles Kingland

Professor Charles Kingsland talks through the IVF process from stimulation through to post-embryo transfer and pregnancy scans

What is the IVF process?

The IVF procedure can be broken down into seven main stages. This covers consultations, tests, and the treatment cycle – we’ve broken down the IVF process step by step for you below, so you know what to expect.

At Care, every treatment plan is unique, because we know that your body and your treatment are as unique as you are. Our plans are designed to give each individual patient their best chance of having a baby. 

That means that your plan may vary slightly from this guide, because we want to make sure that you’re getting the right tests and treatment to support your fertility. 

We’ll always explain what’s happening during every step of the process, so that you know what’s going on with your individual IVF treatment plan.

The first step in the IVF process is a consultation with one of our experienced and dedicated fertility specialists – you’ll discuss your health and medical history and the options for your IVF treatment. You might also need some fertility tests, which will help us personalise your treatment plan.

You’ll then take a course of fertility drugs to help stimulate your ovaries, to help you produce mature eggs. You’ll have a specific and tailored course and dosage of fertility drugs, personalised for you.

During the ovarian stimulation phase, we monitor your progress closely to determine the best time for your matured eggs to be collected, and you’ll be told when to take a drug to trigger ovulation. A typical ovarian monitoring phase is 3-7 days.

Once ovulation has been triggered, your eggs will be retrieved. at your fertility clinic. If you’re also giving a sperm sample, we usually collect this at the same time.

The sperm sample will be prepared and added to the extracted eggs. We then monitor the eggs closely, looking for signs of fertilisation. If the eggs are fertilised, we then grow the embryos in the lab until they’re ready to be transferred into the womb or frozen for transfer in a later cycle.

When the embryos are ready to transfer, you’ll come into the fertility clinic, and the embryo will be inserted. It’s a straightforward procedure that only takes around 15 minutes, and usually there’s no need for sedation.

After embryo transfer, you’ll need to wait for around 12-14 days to find out if your IVF treatment has been successful. This period, often referred to as ‘The Two Week Wait’, can be challenging and it can seem like it takes forever to pass – remember that we’re here to help and support you.

You can take a home pregnancy test around two weeks after your embryo transfer. If your test is positive, you’ll then be called into the clinic for an ultrasound scan to check for a heartbeat. Throughout this stage, we’ll be here to support you.

How long does IVF treatment  take?

Whilst individual cases can vary, depending on the issues that are affecting fertility, it is typical for IVF to take approximately 7 weeks from when you take your first drug, until your pregnancy test.

Who can IVF help?

Getting pregnant is often more difficult than people think, especially as we get older. It’s helpful to be aware of the fertility issues that people can have when they are trying to conceive and how IVF works to address these problems. These can include:

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
  • Endometriosis
  • Unexplained fertility issues
  • Difficulty with ovulation
  • PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • Women who are older with a lower ovarian reserve
  • Men with low sperm counts


We know you’ll have a lot of questions about the IVF process. You can always get in touch with the Care team if you want to talk in more detail, but here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get about IVF treatment.

According to the HFEA, birth rates from IVF in the UK have steadily increased over time with the average birth rate per embryo transferred standing at 24% in 2018, compared with just 7% in 1991.

In 2019, the years of study in HFEA Statistical release published in 2021, they found:

  • Birth rates for patients under 35 were 32% per embryo transferred
  • Birth rates for patients aged 35-37 were 25% 
  • Birth rates for patients aged 38-39 were 19%
  • For women 43+ birth rates were below 5% 

Of course, the likelihood of success with IVF varies person to person as everyone’s needs are individual. One thing you can be sure of is that our teams at Care Fertility will do everything we can to give your best chance of having a baby. You can find out more about IVF success rates at Care here.

As with any medical procedure, there is an element of risk with IVF. These risks include:

  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (when ovaries become swollen and painful)
  • Stress
  • Egg-retrieval procedure complications
  • Multiple births (the likelihood of having twins is higher with IVF)

At Care the health and comfort of our patients is of the utmost importance to us. We do everything we can to minimise risk during IVF, and we offer support throughout your fertility journey.

Patients undergoing IVF are required to take a few different medications throughout the treatment process; these drugs are associated with some potential side effects. However, for most, the chances of starting a family through IVF far outweigh the possible side effects. Some possible side effects include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Mild bloating and/or cramping
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings

For more detailed information on costs at Care Fertility, read our guide to IVF costs where you can find fee schedules for our different clinics, or read understanding IVF costs for more in-depth information.

Your treatment plan and associated costs will be discussed at your consultation – you can book your consultation with one of our doctors here.

The first successful IVF procedure was carried out in 1978. Professor Simon Fishel, who founded Care Fertility, was part of the UK team who pioneered IVF. Since then over 5 million babies have been born worldwide thanks to IVF.

IVF science has advanced very rapidly in recent years and our teams at Care Fertility have been at the forefront of these developments, helping to pioneer ever more effective treatments. We are very proud to know that because of our work, there are more than 50,000 Care babies in the world today.

Are there any potential risks associated with IVF?

Potential side effects of IVF

Start your IVF journey with Care

Arranging a consultation is simple; we offer virtual and in-person consultations.

You can book your consultation and pre-treatment tests below.

Or if you’d like to talk to someone at Care about your options, it's straightforward to get started, call us on 0800 564 2270.