Starting IVF

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The following outlines the steps you will take in the lead up to starting IVF:

Step 1 – Lifestyle changes

Step 2 – Preparing for treatment

Step 3 – Meeting the nursing staff

Step 4 – Treatment begins

Step 5 – Success or trying again


Lifestyle changes

We recommend the following lifestyle changes before you begin treatment:

Eat a healthy diet. Try to eat a diet that is low in fat and sugar and which includes plenty of vegetables, grains and protein.

Control your weight. Being overweight, or underweight can cause fertility problems for both men and women. See our article on The truth about weight control.

Take folic acid and an iodine supplement. Taking folic acid when you are going through IVF and early on in pregnancy can reduce your chances of having a baby with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folic acid and iodine supplements are readily available over-the-counter from pharmacies. Please note that taking more than the recommended dose can be harmful.

Discuss any medications/complementary medicines with your doctor. As some medications may interfere with your fertility treatment, please discuss with your doctor any prescription, over-the-counter medications, or complementary (herbal/natural) therapies that you may be taking.

Give up smoking. Smoking can cause problems for both male and female fertility and may double the time taken to achieve a pregnancy. We encourage you and your partner to give up smoking before you begin any fertility treatment. For information and advice on how to stop smoking, visit your GP, see Quit Now or call the Quitline on 13 7848.

Stop drinking alcohol during treatment. It is recommended that both male and female partners stop drinking alcohol during IVF treatment. Drinking alcohol may affect sperm count and increase the risk for miscarriage and birth defects.

Talk to your doctor about any special cultural or religious dietary aspects. For example, if you plan to fast during Ramadan, your doctor may advise you to postpone certain IVF procedures.



Step 2 – Preparing for treatment

As well as making some changes to your lifestyle, you may also need to budget

for the costs involved in the IVF procedure and consider the time commitment

the treatment requires.

Each different stage of IVF needs to be completed before moving onto the next.

This can make it a very tiring and time-consuming process. Initially, it is

common to feel nervous about the actual procedure, but waiting for the results is

often the most difficult part of treatment. It is recommended that you try to live

your life just as you did before you started IVF. However, you may need to

accept the demands of IVF and you should try to cut back or prioritise your

activities accordingly.


Step 3 – Meeting the nursing staff

Both partners will meet with the nursing staff for an hour-long comprehensive

meeting before treatment begins. They will explain your treatment schedule,

how and when to take your medications and answer any questions you may


Throughout your treatment, the nurses will co-ordinate your specialist’s

treatment plan, provide information and emotional support and perform blood

tests and scans. They will liaise with your specialist and be there for you at

every stage of your journey.


Step 4 – Treatment begins

Your Westmead Fertility Centre (WFC) doctor will determine the right course of

treatment for you based on your specific issues, e.g. age, physical condition.

Many couples require minimal intervention to achieve a pregnancy, while others

need to undergo procedures, such as IVF, ICSI or IUI.


What is In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)?

IVF refers to a technique of assisted reproduction where the egg and sperm are

collected and placed together in a laboratory dish to fertilise. The female partner

usually takes hormonal medications to help stimulate the development of as

many eggs as possible. If the eggs are successfully fertilised in the laboratory,

they are transferred 1 at a time into the woman’s uterus. When 1 of the

fertilised eggs implants, it will develop, just as in a routine pregnancy.


How does Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) differ from IVF?

IVF allows the sperm to penetrate the egg of its own accord, whereas in ICSI the

sperm is directly inserted into the egg in the laboratory.


Click here to find out more about the steps involved in the IVF process. [links to IVF stages slideshow]


Step 5 – Success or trying again


If you have not started menstruating approximately 1 to 2 weeks after your

egg collection, it is advised that you have a home pregnancy test. Your nurse

will give you the exact date for your pregnancy test at the time of your embryo

transfer. You should contact WFC with the results.

An ultrasound scan at about 5 weeks after egg collection will be done before

you are referred to the obstetrician of your choice for care during pregnancy.


Trying again

If the cycle has not been successful, your period will start. Please ring the

nurses if your period starts.

If your treatment cycle is unsuccessful in achieving a pregnancy, it is suggested

that you wait 1 full menstrual cycle before starting again. This will allow you

to wind down and get back to some ‘normal’ living again.

The overall chance of achieving a pregnancy increases with the number of IVF treatment cycles completed.

At WFC, the chance of a healthy birth increases to over 60% after several

completed cycles of treatment.


Related articles:

IVF stages

The truth about weight control

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)