Embryo Transfer Day: What to Expect
Embryo transfer day is a fertility treatment milestone, to be sure. By this point, you’ve successfully fertilized multiple embryos via the assistance of an embryology lab. Now, it’s time to take those sweet embryos and transfer them into the uterus where they will (fingers crossed and the universe-willing) implant into your primed uterine lining.
While there is certainly much to celebrate at this point, most women find they are incredibly nervous. So much of your future hopes and dreams rest in the success of the procedure and – while we always hope for the very best – there’s always a chance this will be the first of multiple embryo transfers before you finally get the pregnancy results you are hoping for.
Embryo Transfer Day Procedures Explained
Beginner’s – and repeat cycle – nerves are to be expected, but we hope that being prepared helps to provide clarity and a bit of calm.
Once we’ve retrieved your eggs, we’ll fertilize them – and it’s all synced with your body’s ovulatory process. Researchers have established that fertilized eggs are most likely to attach on the 5th day of ovulation, when the endometrial lining is perfectly ripe, so to speak. For this reason, IVF statistics show that Day 5 is the most successful day to transfer the fertilized eggs (called blastocysts, at this point).
If, for whatever reason, you’ve chosen to freeze embryos – they’re frozen between days 5 and 8, to increase their chances of implanting when you’re ready to schedule the transfer at a time that works for you. Also, by day 5, your embryos can be tested for chromosomal or genetic abnormalities, giving us the ability to transfer the healthiest one, two or three in the bunch. We suspect that over time, and with more data, pre-implantation genetic screening and diagnosis will improve IVF success rates.
Drink lots of water so you have a full bladder
Full bladders improve the ultrasound imaging used to guide our needle through the cervix and into your uterus in order to deliver your precious embryos. It also helps to minimize uterine contractions that interfere with the transfer process. Therefore, drink plenty of fluids before your scheduled appointment time, and resist the urge to use the restroom for the 30 or 45 minutes prior to the transfer.
If you’ll be traveling a fair distance to our center, empty your bladder about 30 or 40 minutes before you arrive, and then hold it from that point on if possible.
It’s imperative that the right embryos make it into the right mama, so we perform rigorous due diligence, selecting the carefully identified embryos, verifying your identity with theirs, and so on. We also make sure we know exactly how many embryos will be transferred that day and mark that clearly in the instructions.
The number of embryos transferred is determined by your infertility diagnosis, your age, previous IVF history and your preferences. Ultimately, our goal is to yield one healthy baby per cycle, but we may opt to transfer more than one embryo to increase our chances of reaching that goal.
During this time, you’ll also be given paperwork instructing us on what to do with the remaining, fertilized embryos.
You will be given a sedative
Surprisingly, for such an important procedure, it takes a mere five or so minutes to complete an embryo’s transfer from start to finish. Therefore, we very rarely engage the use of anesthesia. Instead, we offer a sedative that allows your body to fully relax and minimizes uterine contractions. The sedative makes it much easier for the doctor to easily access the cervix and uterus.
From dish, to catheter to uterus…
Your doctor will use a specialized catheter to aspirate the embryo(s) up out of their current, glass home. Once the embryo’s presence in the catheter is confirmed via microscope, the doctor will carefully insert it into your vagina, through the cervix and into the uterus. Ultrasound imaging is used to ensure the embryo(s) is transferred to the uterus via a gentle puff of air.
Afterwards, the doctor removes the catheter very slowly to reduce the chances of uterine contractions, and uses the microscope again to make sure the embryo was left behind in the uterus.
The transfer is now officially complete, and you will remain laying down for just five or 10 minutes longer before you’re sent home with instructions. Your doctor will also administer progesterone – and send you home with some as well – in order to help your body retain the embryo once it’s successfully implanted into your endometrium.
Now, It’s Time to Wait
While embryo transfer day is the “easy part” the ensuing wait can feel like torture to a couple desperate to get pregnant. This infamous “two week wait” can feel more like two years, but you have thousands upon thousands of women out there who understand exactly what you’re going through.
Read, 5 Tactics to Surviving the Two Week Wait, to help prepare yourself and your partner. In addition to taking it easy, this is a good time to explore fertility blogs written by women and couples just like you.
Things to keep in mind as you’re waiting:
- Don’t forget to take your progesterone. Most patients will leave their embryo transfer appointment with a progesterone prescription, taken daily until a pregnancy is confirmed and blood tests show their own progesterone levels are sufficient.
- Consider rounds of acupuncture. Several studies have shown that syncing rounds of acupuncture with embryo transfer and the two week wait period may increase your chance of IVF success. Look for a licensed and reputable acupuncturist, specializing in acupuncture for fertility, if you’re interested in this holistic approach to fertility.
- Keep yourself busy – but relaxed. The last thing you want to be doing is running around like a mad woman, but you don’t want to succumb to the excess fixating and obsessing that occurs as a result of boredom. Do your best to keep a relaxed but busy pace so the time goes by faster than it would normally. Spend time with the people – and doing the things – you love best.
This may also be a great time to look into a great fertility counselor in your area. S/he may become a lifeline of support and healing as you and your partner navigate the bumpy road towards fertility.
The team here at the Reproductive Resource Center wishes you lots of luck and success on your upcoming embryo transfer day.
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RRC has over 200 years of combined experience. As a leading reproductive health, infertility, and in-vitro fertilization (or IVF) center based in Kansas City, we're proud to have the highest level of expertise available to our patients.