Does IVF Start on My Period or Can I Start at Any Time?

Lady writing in her diary

If you’re about to do IVF treatment and you’re ready to begin sooner, you may not want to wait for your period before starting. However, it’s important to know that there’s a specific time when an IVF treatment cycle starts.

IVF treatment starts on the 2nd day of your period – although sometimes it can start on the 4th day. This is because IVF works alongside a normal period cycle while adding needed medical interventions. Of course, any paperwork or medical tests are not bound by this timeframe.

This schedule applies whether you have to have eggs harvested or whether you have eggs frozen so that all you need to do is the embryo transfer. Consultations, paperwork and tests can obviously be done beforehand. Also, there are ways to take back some control over when you start the actual treatment.

The Reason Why IVF Starts With Your Period

IVF treatment starts on the 2nd day of your period, although if that’s a Saturday when your clinic is likely to be closed, you’ll probably only start on the Monday which will be the 4th day of your period.

The reason why IVF starts at the same time your period does, is obvious when you think about it.

The purpose of a period is to prepare your body for pregnancy. The bleeding releases all the tissue that your body no longer needs, and you reset yourself for the possibility of pregnancy. The ovaries grow eggs that it will release once ready, and the lining of your uterus becomes thicker so it can nurture a fertilized egg.

Since IVF treatment is not a brand new way for getting pregnant but merely an intervention in the usual method to help processes that aren’t working correctly or optimally, it makes sense that IVF should work alongside the natural process for having a baby and start at the same time.

Yes, it’s not as convenient as being able to walk into your clinic and start whenever you want and every delay could well be frustrating, especially if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while already and this is yet another delay, but at least, if you have regular periods, the maximum amount of time you’ll have to wait before you can start is only one month.

IVF treatment makes two interventions in your normal period cycle.

The first is that it causes a greater amount of eggs to grow and mature than usual (that’s what all those medications and injections do). The treatment also prevents your ovaries from ovulating as they naturally would (again, that’s those medications and injections at work) so that those greater-amount-of-eggs-than-usual can be more easily extracted and then manipulated in the lab.

The injections and medications that do this have to be taken from as early as day 2 of your period.

A syringe, vials and pills

In order to know how well your ovaries are responding to the stimulation, you’ll need to do regular blood tests and ultrasounds that monitor your various hormone levels and follicular growth so that the dosage and frequency of medications that you’re taking can be adjusted when necessary.

The second intervention is transferring the harvested eggs (after they’ve been fertilized) into your uterus, which has to be ready for implantation – when the embryo attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. While medication helps with this, since your body readies itself for implantation naturally, the transfer procedure occurs at a time when implantation would occur had the whole process been occurring normally.

The main takeaway here is that since an IVF treatment cycle is merely an aid to a normal period cycle that makes your body ready for pregnancy and is not a brand-new method of conceiving that works completely differently to the normal one, it has to work with your period and start when it does.

The reason why IVF starts on the second day of your period as opposed to the first when they’re supposed to be working in tandem is purely practical. After all, if you start your period in the middle of the day, it may be too difficult to get to your clinic that may anyway already be closed.

When Does IVF Start if I’m Only Doing Embryo Transfers?

If you’ve already done an IVF cycle where you ended up with more viable embryos than could be used in the transfer process, they will have been frozen for use in another IVF cycle.

This means that for your next IVF treatment cycle you won’t have to go through the ovary stimulation and egg retrieval process and can jump straight to the embryo transfer process. A huge plus: take it from me. There’s less medications and injections overall.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can start IVF treatment closer to the time the embryo transfers are done, at around day 14 – 16. You’ll still be starting the treatment cycle at around day 2.

This is because you’ll still be taking medication to ensure you don’t ovulate and become pregnant – which is kind of counter intuitive but since you’re trying to become pregnant via IVF you need to stop this occurring naturally to optimize the treatment. You’ll also need to be monitored and have your medications adjusted accordingly, to ensure that the lining of your uterus becomes thick enough and ready for an embryo to be implanted.

Parts of IVF That Do Start Before Your Period

There are parts of IVF that do start before your period. That is any doctor consultations, paperwork and tests that your hospital, clinic or insurance requires you to do before you can start treatment.

I have a whole batch of paperwork and tests that I need to do before I can start a treatment cycle. It’s often a huge pain the neck, but at least I don’t have to wait for my body before I can get started on them.

2 stacks of paperwork

Additionally, if circumstances require it, you may have to undergo certain other procedures in order to facilitate or optimize IVF treatment. Of course, you won’t need to wait for your period before getting on with that. 

Of course, you should also prepare your support network beforehand. Tell your partner exactly what he’ll be doing to help you over the next nine months (it’s always good to ask for more than is necessary) and prepare your children by letting them know you won’t be able to do everything they want as soon as they want for a little while.

What Control You Do Have as to When IVF Starts

Just because IVF has to start when your period does, doesn’t mean the time when you start IVF treatment is totally out of your control. Although you can’t start IVF treatment before your period, it is possible to delay beginning treatment to a more convenient time (perhaps a month or two) as long as you take into account that it has to start when your period does.

If you want to be even more precise as to when you start IVF treatment you can do this by taking medication to control more or less exactly when your period will start. This doesn’t give you complete control over when your period will start as that will be determined by how your medication works, but it does give you a lot more than otherwise.

Of course, you should discuss whether this is a good idea with your doctor.

I don’t have regular periods and often only have a natural one after about four months. Obviously I don’t want to wait that long to start IVF treatment and I take medication to start my period sooner, but one advantage to this is that with a little calculation I can control more or less when my period and therefore my treatment will start.

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