Whether you are researching the IVF process or looking for a potential Fertility Clinic to guide you through your journey, we are here to demystify the entire process of IVF, and to give you all the information that you may need to assist in your understanding of it.

What is IVF, and Why is it Performed?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) where sperm and an egg are fertilized outside of the human body. 

IVF is a complex process that involves retrieving eggs from ovaries and manually combining them with sperm in a lab for fertilization. Several days after fertilization, the fertilized egg (now called an embryo) is placed inside a uterus. Pregnancy occurs when this embryo implants itself into the uterine wall.

Our patients choose to undergo IVF for many reasons, including infertility issues or when one partner has an existing health condition. 

Some people will try IVF after other fertility methods have failed, or if they’re at an advanced maternal age

IVF is also a reproductive option for same-sex couples or patients who wish to have a baby without a partner.

IVF is an option if you or your partner has:

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.
  • Endometriosis.
  • Low sperm count or other sperm impairments.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome or other ovarian conditions.
  • Uterine fibroids.
  • Problems with your uterus.
  • Risk of passing on a genetic disease or disorder.
  • Unexplained infertility.
  • Are making use of an egg donor or a gestational surrogate

Contact us if you are looking to consider IVF and one of our skilled Fertility Specialists will be able to assist.

Getting Started – The First Step in the Process of IVF

IVF is a complicated process with many steps. On average, you can expect the process to last four to six weeks. This includes the time before egg retrieval when a patient takes fertility medication, up until they’re tested for pregnancy.

Birth control Pills or Estrogen

Starting your fertility process may be daunting, but several clear steps mark the way, and understanding them will assist in making the entire journey more comfortable.

Before you start IVF treatment, your fertility specialist may prescribe birth control pills or estrogen. This is used to stop the development of ovarian cysts and to control the timing of your menstrual cycle. 

This allows your fertility specialist to control your treatment and maximize the number of mature eggs during the egg retrieval procedure. Some people are prescribed combination birth control pills (estrogen and progesterone), while others are given just estrogen.

Approximately 5% of couples with infertility will try IVF. More than 8 million babies have been born from IVF since 1978. It’s one of the most effective assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) available. 

IVF Continued – The Steps that Follow

Step 1: Ovarian Stimulation

The IVF journey typically begins with ovarian stimulation. The goal here is to encourage the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, as this increases the chances of successful fertilization. Fertility medications, often in the form of daily injections, are prescribed to the patient. These medications stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs than they would naturally.

Step 2: Monitoring

Throughout the ovarian stimulation phase, frequent monitoring is crucial. Transvaginal ultrasounds and blood tests are conducted to track the growth and development of the follicles (fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries that contain the eggs). The healthcare team uses this data to adjust medication dosages and timing to optimize egg production.

Step 3: Trigger Shot

When the follicles have reached the desired size, a “trigger shot” of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is administered. This hormone mimics the natural LH surge, signalling the body to prepare the eggs for retrieval.

Step 4: Egg Retrieval

Approximately 36 hours after the trigger shot, the egg retrieval procedure takes place. This is a minor surgical procedure performed under sedation or anaesthesia. A thin needle is guided through the vaginal wall and into the ovaries using ultrasound guidance. The fluid within the follicles is aspirated, and the eggs are collected.

Egg Freezing: An Option for the Future

In some cases, individuals or couples may opt for egg freezing as part of the IVF process. This allows them to preserve eggs for future use, providing peace of mind and flexibility. Eggs can be frozen before fertilization, giving patients the choice to defer fertilization and pregnancy until a later date.

IVF with Donor Eggs

Each fertility journey is different. Some of our patients may need to use donor eggs when undergoing IVF. 

Egg donor IVF is a form of assisted conception whereby eggs (oocytes) are obtained from a young, healthy donor. The eggs are fertilized in a laboratory, and the resulting embryo (fertilized egg) is then transferred into the recipient woman’s uterus. As the egg donors are young and healthy, this treatment results in a higher pregnancy success rate. 

The age of the recipient does not negatively affect the pregnancy rate, and we treat women up to the age of 55.

It is important to note that Egg Donation IVF is a more expensive choice because the donor requires screening, medication, blood tests, and doctor’s visits.

Thanks to our youthful and healthy egg donors, IVF has had a 65-70% pregnancy success rate.

When is an Egg Donor Necessary for IVF?

There are many reasons that an egg donor may be required for an IVF process. Below we have listed some of the reasons:

  • Premature ovarian failure or Menopause
  • Diminished ovarian reserves
  • Multiple failure IVF/ICSI cycles
  • LGBTQ couples or single men/women looking to start a family
  • Genetic/chromosome abnormalities 
  • If the patient does not want to pass on a genetically linked condition
  • Women with unexplained infertility

A Step-By-Step Guide for Future Parents 

  • Contact Us To Choose Your Donor – Choosing your egg donor is a big decision. 
  • Donor Screening & Treatment Plan – Once your donor has passed the screening phase of the process, she will also be issued with a treatment protocol, overseen by your IVF Coordinator and Doctor.
  • Medication – Your donor will take fertility stimulation injections for 10-12 days. These injections are used to grow the follicles/eggs. Your donor will undergo approximately 2 follicle scans during the treatment phase.
  • Donor Egg Retrieval – Once her follicles have reached the desired size, her egg retrieval procedure will be booked. 
  • Egg Fertilisation – Once the eggs have been retrieved, they are fertilized using your partner’s sperm (fresh or frozen) OR donor sperm (should you be using fresh sperm, details about obtaining a sample will be given to you at your lining scan appointment).
  • Embryo Transfer – Your embryos will be cultured in our state-of-the-art laboratory for 3 to 5 days. You will be informed when to come in for your embryo transfer (ET). Because of the higher pregnancy success rates with egg donation, a maximum of 2 embryos will be transferred. Any additional quality embryos will be frozen with your consent (for use by yourself at a later date). 

The ET procedure is quick and relatively painless, similar to a gynaecological examination or pap smear. An abdominal ultrasound will be used to visualize the transfer of the embryos. A fine plastic tube (catheter) carrying your embryos will be introduced into the uterus to insert your embryos. 

  • Pregnancy Test – Your pregnancy (blood) test should be done 10 days after your embryo transfer, and then again 2 days later. Please be sure to keep your IVF Coordinator updated on the outcome of the test so we can send you a subsequent treatment plan.

Legalities of Egg Donation and IVF

Egg donation is a process in which a fertile woman donates an egg, or oocyte, to another woman to help her conceive.

The donor who remains anonymous must agree to relinquish all maternal rights once she has been approved as a donor. The egg donation process is a part of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).

The National Health Act of 2004 regulates all gamete donations in South Africa; therefore, anonymous egg donation is legal in South Africa.

The law in South Africa allows financial compensation for reasonable expenses incurred by the donor, e.g., time away from work/studies and travel expenses (public transport/petrol) to and from HART. According to South African law, an egg donor may not have more than six live-born children from their donated gametes.

IVF Journey with Donor Sperm

In some cases, your fertility journey may need the help of a sperm donor rather than an egg donor.

IVF with donor sperm follows the same process as standard IVF. It involves the use of fertility drugs to stimulate your ovaries to produce mature eggs, which are fertilized following retrieval, in our laboratory, with sperm from the sperm donor you have chosen from our recruitment program.

Reasons that Donor Sperm may be Needed for IVF

Nothing in the world of fertility medicine applies to everyone. While there are common themes and helpful statistics shared by many patients, in the end, every case is unique. 

Some of the most common reasons to use a sperm donor include:

  • Medical Conditions and Male-Factor Infertility: Male-factor infertility contributes to up to half of all cases of infertility. Some men have recently undergone cancer treatment which may have damaged their sperm and their fertility. Some may have been born without male reproductive organs. Others live with autoimmune conditions which can affect the function of their reproductive system. Using a sperm donor can often provide a very successful result for all of these patients.
  • Genetic Diseases and Conditions: Men and couples who know that they are carriers of, or at risk for potentially dangerous genetic diseases may choose to use a sperm donor to avoid passing on the condition to any resulting children. 
  • Lesbian/same-sex Couples: Female same-sex partners often decide to use a sperm donor to become parents. There are several fertility options available for LGBT couples. IUI is the most common, but reciprocal IVF (where one partner provides the egg and the other partner carries the pregnancy) is a beautiful alternative which is becoming more popular.
  • Single Women: Women who either by choice, or by circumstance do not have a partner but who want to become mothers can use sperm donation to have children on their own terms. An anonymous sperm donor provides a clear path to parenthood without legal, personal, or custody complications. 

How Sperm Donation Works

There are two main ways to find donor sperm:

  1. An Anonymous Donor – Men who have donated their sperm in the hope of allowing someone to have a family. 
  2. A Known Donor – Sperm is donated at the clinic by someone you know.

If you are looking for an anonymous donor, the first step requires you to select a Fertility or Sperm Bank that will assist you with your journey

Our Sperm Bank – Conception Sperm Donation- recruits young healthy males between the ages of 19-35 years; who have normal sperm, and fulfil all our specific screening criteria. 

The selection and testing of donors is a complex process that requires the donors to visit our bank for consultations. This includes consultations with our fertility specialists, psychological assessments, medical screening, blood tests, and laboratory testing (semen analysis).

Donors will be required to fill in a profile which will be used to provide information to prospective recipients. 

South Africa’s Unique Ancestral Gene Pool

Selecting the right donor for your IVF journey can be overwhelming, but we have in-depth profiles that will aid in making the right choice.

Gamete donation is anonymous in South Africa, and donors donate for altruistic reasons. 

Our extensive profiles provide information on the donor’s medical history, family medical history, physical descriptions, education, personal interests and personality, and childhood photos.

South Africa has a unique ancestral gene pool, and we therefore probe our donor’s ancestral heritage closely.

Black African of Southern African descent (an important note for this group is there is a low incidence of sickle cell disease (SCD).

Our European population can trace their ancestry to Dutch, French, Portuguese, German, Greek, and Norwegian origin. Our mixed-origin donors have a racial mix of European, Black-African, and Asian origin.

Making Your Decision and Selecting Your Team

The decision to undergo IVF treatment is a big one, and even with all of the information, you may need the guidance and support of our Fertility Specialists. 

Book a consultation with one of our Specialists to determine the best way forward for your family.