Wondering what to expect after your IVF transfer? This post covers the next steps after completing your IVF cycle, and some important do’s and don’ts.
You’ve gone through your IVF treatment (in vitro fertilization), you’ve had your egg retrieval, and your embryo transfer is mere days away! First of all… congratulations. This is a grueling process and you are a warrior for making it this far. But now it’s time to wait, which is as (if not more) stressful than receiving the treatment itself.
There are nine days between when your embryo gets transferred for implantation and when a fertility clinic will invite you in for a blood test to determine whether or not you are pregnant. This is a lot of time to get in your head, hyper-analyze, and play Dr. Google to pick apart every symptom you may experience (been there!).
To date, I have had two successful IVF embryo transfers, resulting in my daughter and my son. And trust me, I know first-hand how easy it is to stress and get anxious over the outcome. There is an increased need to symptom spot and self-diagnose, there is an obsession with identifying positive signs of implantation, and there is a massive desire to be done with fertility medications.
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When you’re done with this article, be sure to read or save What to Do After An Embryo Transfer to Increase Success and 8 Positive Signs After Embryo Transfer.
What is an embryo transfer?
The embryo transfer procedure is the last stage in the IVF process and it is a simple one. It is much like a Pap smear in that a fertility doctor will insert an instrument to open the woman’s vagina and cervix.
You will be expected to arrive with a full bladder (worst part of the process if they aren’t timely, in my opinion). Then, they will transfer one of your healthy embryos through a catheter that is threaded through the uterine cavity. The day 3, day 5 or day 6 embryo (blastocyst stage) is delivered to the woman’s uterus where it will hopefully implant and result in a healthy pregnancy.
What to Expect After IVF Transfer
Whether you are having a fresh embryo transfer or a frozen embryo transfer, there are several things you can expect as you wait for the outcome. Here’s a general overview of what to expect after an IVF embryo transfer:
1. Post-Transfer Care:
- Rest and Relaxation: Many doctors recommend a day or two of rest following the embryo transfer, although there isn’t strict bed rest protocol. From personal experience, I would recommend striking a balance between rest and light activity.
- Avoid Strenuous Activities: Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise for a couple of weeks after the procedure to reduce the risk of disrupting the embryo implantation. This can be challenging for those that are used to exercising regularly and perhaps heavily, but once you get clearance from your doctor, you should be able to proceed as usual.
2. Medications and Hormones:
- Progesterone Supplements: You’ll likely continue with progesterone supplements to support the uterine lining and encourage embryo implantation until the pregnancy test. For my first IVF pregnancy, I had to take suppositories and an oral supplement until 8 weeks pregnant. With my second, I only had to take the suppositories for about 4 weeks.
- Other Medications: Your fertility specialist may prescribe other medications or hormones based on your individual situation.
3. Symptoms and Side Effects: Following are some possible symptoms post-embryo transfer. Note that symptoms vary by person!
- Spotting: Some women might experience light spotting, which can be normal as the embryo implants into the uterus.
- Cramping: Mild cramping is common in your lower abdomen and can also be due to the embryo implanting into the uterine lining.
- Fatigue: This process is mentally and physically draining, largely due to the fertility drugs you are pumping into your body, and fatigue is a common symptom no matter the outcome.
- Breast Tenderness: Hormonal changes might cause sore breasts.
- Mood Swings: Hormonal fluctuations can lead to mood swings and emotional sensitivity. Get used to it! When you are pregnant, this doesn’t go away (sorry to the partners of the world!).
- No Symptoms: PLEASE REMEMBER, some women don’t experience any noticeable symptoms at all! This does not indicate a negative outcome, so do yourself a favor and don’t convince yourself otherwise.
4. The Two-Week Wait (2WW):
- Patience is Key: The period between the embryo transfer and the pregnancy test is commonly referred to as the 2-week wait. It can be emotionally challenging, and it’s crucial to remain patient and try to stay positive. Easier said than done, I know!
- Avoid Home Pregnancy Tests (HPTs): While it might be tempting, taking home pregnancy tests during this time can be unreliable and lead to unnecessary stress. It’s best to wait for the blood test at your clinic, which will provide accurate results. However, I will be the first to admit that I tested early with both of my pregnancies. More info on that below in the tips section.
5. Follow-Up Appointments and Check-ins:
- Post-Procedure Call: The following day, you should get a phone call from a nurse or your doctor to check in on how you are feeling and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
- Blood Test: Around 10-14 days after the embryo transfer, you’ll have a blood test to measure the levels of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone, which indicates pregnancy.
- Ultrasound: If the pregnancy test is positive, an ultrasound will be scheduled a few weeks later to confirm the presence of a gestational sac and heartbeat. Usually after this ultrasound, you will be released from your fertility clinic and continue your care under your OBGYN.
6. Emotional Support:
- Talk to Your Partner: Share your feelings and concerns with your partner. I cannot stress how crucial emotional support is during this time.
- Support Groups: Consider joining support groups or talking to others who have gone through similar experiences. Many find solace in connecting with people who understand their journey.
Post- IVF Transfer Do’s and Don’ts
Do: Stay Occupied
I will be completely honest: the TWW drags. So it’s best if you keep your mind as busy as possible so you can’t focus too heavily on your upcoming news. Whether you busy yourself with work, a good book, or a new project, you’ll want the distraction!
Don’t: Take a Pregnancy Test Too Early
It’s so temping, I know! But there is real data behind how soon a pregnancy test will read positive, and there is a chance of getting a false positive or a false negative.
I personally have no patience and the wait was killing me, but I waited until at least 5 days post Day 5 transfer (5dp5dt) which is equivalent to 10 days. I waited 7 days post Day 3 transfer (7dp3dt), which is also equivalent to 10 days. The lines were super faint, but there was no denying that they were there. So, I tested again the next day and then waited for my beta test to officially declare myself pregnant. This isn’t the way to go for everyone, as it can set you up for disappointment if you have a false positive, but it can certainly ease your mind. The beta test is the only truly accurate test because it will measure your HCG levels.
Do: Contact your Reproductive Endocrinologist
Just because your embryo transfer process is over doesn’t mean your fertility journey is over. If you have questions, your doctor will have answers, so don’t hesitate to contact them or a nurse if you need clarity on anything. If you are experiencing any of the following, you should contact your care team:
- Heavy bleeding
- Severe pain
- Sever bloating
- Shortness of breath
- Decreased urination
If you are earlier on in the IVF process and doing your research, check out Questions to Ask Your Fertility Doctor.
Don’t: Panic & Over Research
I’m a worry-wart, so this advice is a bit laughable if you know me. However, panicking is the last thing you want to do during the waiting period. Like any health-related scenario where you are waiting for results, it’s important not to invest a lot of time in research. It doesn’t change anything. This is an incredibly stressful and emotionally charged time – financially, physically, and emotionally. While it’s natural to seek information and answers, there is a fine balance between being informed and over-researching. Doing so can increase your stress and anxiety which doesn’t help anything. The truth is that at this stage, the outcome is out of your control and more research and mind games will not increase your chances of a successful pregnancy. However, there are small things – many of which are old wives tales – you can try to increase your chances of implantation.
Do: Maintain a Healthy Diet
Diet will always matter, no matter what you are going through, and a successful embryo transfer is no different. Consume antioxidant-rich foods, whole grains, and healthy fats, all of which help boost fertility. I would recommend avoiding alcohol – you’ve come this far!
Don’t: Take Hot Baths
Extreme temperatures are not ideal for successful implantation, so you should avoid submerging yourself into hot water (baths, jacuzzis, hot tubs). These can all leave you vulnerable to infection.
Best of luck to you!