What to Expect After the Embryo Transfer
It’s finally here, the day you’ve been waiting for: embryo transfer day. This is the day your IVF cycle has been leading up to. After weeks of medications, monitoring, and the egg retrieval, your embryo(s) are now ready to be transferred into your womb. While the actual transfer only takes about 15 minutes, the two-week period of waiting to take your first pregnancy test can seem like the longest two weeks of your life. Post embryo transfer you can relax, knowing that you’ve done everything possible to become pregnant.
Embryo Transfer Day
Embryo transfer day is 3 to 6 days after the egg retrieval. This is because the retrieved eggs need to be fertilized, and then cultured for a few days so only viable embryos will be transferred. The day after the eggs are retrieved, you start taking progesterone to make your uterus receptive to implantation of the embryo(s). After the transfer is complete, you stay in a reclining position for about an hour so the embryos have every opportunity to attach themselves to your uterine wall. Some doctors recommend that women take it easy for the whole day of the embryo transfer. From a medical standpoint, this may not be completely necessary. It does, however, give women who have been nervous about the procedure some time to relax and regroup.
Frozen Embryo Transfer
If you are doing a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET), then the transfer will occur at least a month after the egg retrieval.
- For about two weeks before the FET, Lupron is used for pituitary suppression. This is done to make sure there isn’t spontaneous ovulation.
- After the two weeks of Lupron, you start taking estrogen to build up your uterine lining. The uterine lining will be monitored by transvaginal ultrasound during a series of appointments. Lupron doses are being lowered during this period.
- When the uterine lining is ready, the Lupron is discontinued, and progesterone is started. This is done to prepare the uterus, so the embryo can implant.
- The FET is usually done five days after the start of progesterone. At this time the uterus is as hospitable as possible for the embryo.
Embryo Transfer Procedure
The embryo transfer procedure is the same for fresh cycles and frozen cycles. It’s basically the intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedure, but embryos are transferred into the uterus instead of sperm. An embryo transfer is an in-office procedure that is performed with no anesthesia because there is minimal discomfort.
During the embryo transfer procedure, the embryo(s) to be transferred are loaded into a catheter that passes through the vagina and cervix, into the uterus. Ultrasound is used to guide the catheter to the ideal placement location, 1–2 cm from the uterine fundus.
The procedure takes approximately 15 minutes, then you rest for 30 to 60 minutes after the embryo transfer before going home. Most women rest for the remainder of the day.
After Embryo Transfer
You start taking progesterone before the embryo transfer because it helps the uterine lining mature and become ready for an embryo to implant. You continue with progesterone supplementation after the embryo transfer until your pregnancy is confirmed and your body is producing enough progesterone naturally.
Some symptoms after embryo transfer are similar to your menstrual cycle:
- Slight bloating
- Mood swings
- Sore breasts
- Light spotting
Since these symptoms can apply to early pregnancy, or the start of a period, they can be very frustrating. Most pregnancy tests aren’t accurate until about two weeks after the transfer due to the large amount of the hormone HCG in your body from the trigger shot before the egg retrieval. So, you just have to wait out the two longest weeks of your life. There are some things you should be doing during this time to take care of yourself:
- Eat and take care of yourself like you’re pregnant. Take vitamins, eat a healthy diet, and no drinking or smoking.
- No vigorous exercise. This might cause uterine contractions.
- During this extremely emotional time, between the hormones and the dream of a family of your own, ensure you have emotional support.
The Big Day Is Finally Here
After what may seem like an eternity (two weeks after the transfer), you go to the fertility clinic for a blood test to determine if you’re pregnant. If you are, congratulations, you’re on your way to parenthood! For the first eight to ten weeks of the pregnancy, you stay under the care of the fertility center team so they can monitor the pregnancy with blood tests and ultrasounds. During this time, you will also continue the progesterone supplement to help keep the uterine lining healthy and prevent miscarriage. After the fertility team is happy with the way the pregnancy is progressing, you transfer to your regular OB/GYN for the remainder of the pregnancy. Congratulations, your dream of a biological child is almost here.