by EBSCO Medical Review Board


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.

Fallopian Tube, Ovary, and Uterus
Fallopian Tube, Ovary, and Uterus
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Reasons for Procedure

IVF can be done when pregnancy does not happen naturally.

It is most often done when infertility is due to:

  • Damaged fallopian tubes
  • Ovulation problems
  • Cervical factors
  • Low sperm count or poor-quality sperm in the male partner

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Problems getting pregnant after treatment
  • Having multiple babies
  • An embryo that grows outside the uterus
  • Problems from anesthesia
  • Side effects from fertility medicines
  • Ovarian rupture (rare)

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • A woman that is over 40 years of age
  • Alcohol use

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before egg harvesting, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Arranging a ride to and from the procedures
  • Specialists you may need to see
  • Tests that will need to be done, such as blood tests and ultrasounds


During egg harvesting, the doctor may give:

  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep
  • Spinal anesthesia
  • IV sedation

The embryo transfer does not use anesthesia.

Description of the Procedure

Egg Harvesting

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?

  • Harvesting—About 30 minutes
  • Transfer procedure—About 10 minutes

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.

Post-procedure Care

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.

At Home

Some activities may be limited after the transfer.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Vaginal discharge that smells bad
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Pain or cramping in the belly
  • Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
  • Any new symptoms

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:  . Accessed August 5, 2020.

What is in vitro fertilization (IVF)? American Society for Reproductive Medicine website. Available at: Accessed August 5, 2020.

What is IVF? The National Infertility Association website. Available at: Published Summer 2012. Accessed August 5, 2020.

Revision Information