For couples who have experienced failed IVF cycles, preparing for your frozen embryo transfer can bring uncertainty, worry and fear. Bringing new life and building a family is a dream many couples aspire to have, however, fertility is not often a straightforward path.
Thankfully, for individuals who have already undergone one (or more) IVF cycle and have frozen embryos leftover, past attempts at embryo transfers or IVF can provide many embryos for future attempts.
In Vitro Fertilization Frozen Embryo Transfers (IVF-FET) are 10% more likely to result in a live birth than a fresh one, making frozen transfers a popular option for fertility specialists, doctors and couples who were unsuccessful in their previous attempts of conception.
Frozen embryo transfers require preparation of the uterus, so preparing correctly is essential to increase your chances of a successful live birth post-IVF FET.
What is a frozen embryo transfer?
Simply put, a frozen embryo transfer (FET) is possible because previous IVF processes often produce additional embryo(s) couples can freeze for future attempts if the initial IVF cycle is unsuccessful.
On the day of your procedure, the embryos will be thawed and transferred to the woman’s uterus through a catheter. Because you have embryos frozen from a previous IVF cycle, this process is typically less intense and stressful than initial IVF attempts.
For patients 35 or younger, there is a 60% pregnancy rate per embryo transfer, whereas women over the age of 40 have a 20% pregnancy rate per embryo transfer. When you decide it’s time to undergo a frozen embryo transfer, it’s important to prepare your uterus for implantation through the proper drugs and behaviors.
Once cleared by your fertility specialist or doctor to start a cycle following menstruation, you will take different injections and oral medications every three days for two to three weeks to thicken your uterus’s lining. Your fertility specialist and doctor may suggest other medications depending on your unique scenario.
Because a woman’s body produces progesterone when ovulating, the endometrial lining develops at the optimal rate to nurture the fertilized eggs. As with most things Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), timing is everything.
FET-IVF Cycles: Hormonal Support and Natural
There are two kinds of FET-IVF cycles: Hormonal support cycles and natural cycles.
Hormonally supported FET cycles are more popular with couples because estrogen and progesterone are administered to mimic the body’s cycle and thicken your endometrium. Clinics and labs typically prefer this FET cycle because the day of the frozen embryo transfer is easy to control and hormonal support is available for ovulatory problems.
In Natural FET-IVF cycles, the timing of your frozen embryo transfer is determined when you ovulate naturally. However, an hCG shot is typically given to ensure ovulation occurs and progesterone will be used for luteal phase support after ovulation and transfer.
Preparing for your frozen embryo transfer
Your FET cycle can bring uncertainty and stress, and you must remember that you’re in good hands when preparing and anticipating the procedure and outcomes. It’s important to prepare yourself for what to expect and how to improve your chances of success, so you’re already off to a good start.
Many doctors recommend different medications and protocols before the procedure, so you may find yourself in bed rest anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks. Whatever your doctor and fertility specialist recommends, you must take their advice.
When preparing for your IVF frozen embryo transfer, use these tricks and tips before your procedure to increase your chances of a successful transfer:
Tip 1: Organize and take your medications.
When undergoing a frozen embryo transfer, you’ll be given progesterone and other supplemental medications to prepare your uterus and other hormonal functions. Make sure you have adequate levels of medications and you understand how to take them.
If your doctor recommends bed rest, it’s a good idea to move everything you’ll need within reach, especially your fertility medications. Try to plan out what medications you’ll be taking each day, and make sure that you can access everything your doctors prescribed without serious movement. This will also help make sure you’re not missing anything critical before the procedure, and you can feel confident you’re doing everything you need to do.
Tip 2: Place a trash can next to your bed.
There can be a lot of waste and packaging associated with fertility medications before the embryo transfer. Make sure you can easily dispose of any necessary waste without getting up and disrupting your bed rest. Additionally, having somewhere nearby to discard medicine packages and other waste nearby your bed will help you significantly decrease clutter (and stress levels) while waiting for your frozen embryo transfer.
Tip 3: Stock up on entertainment.
Whether you like to read, watch TV, or listen to music, entertaining yourself throughout the preparation for the procedure is important for a few reasons. First, this helps you take your mind off a potentially nerve-wracking first experience for many women who have not yet undergone an embryo transfer. Secondly, staying entertained throughout bed rest is a good opportunity to practice self-love and take care of yourself.
We live in a busy society where hustling is promoted, but disconnecting and immersing yourself in something you’re interested in can leave you feeling rejuvenated and excited. You can’t fill from an empty cup, and self-appreciation is a great way to avoid burnout.
Tip 4: Purchase warm socks.
A widely held principle in Chinese medicine, a “cold” uterus with poor blood flow and circulation can be a cause of infertility. However, that being said, wearing socks certainly can’t hurt. And while slightly controversial, warm socks are a long-standing IVF superstition many patients follow.
Often, slip-on shoes with warm socks are recommended for the day of your embryo transfer for the easiest possible procedure. This will prevent you from getting cold feet (pun intended ;) throughout the embryo transfer process, and make sure that your body is nice and warm.
Tip 5: Sleep restfully.
Ironically enough, being on bed rest can make getting a good night’s rest harder. Sleep and fertility are closely connected, so it’s critical to get enough sleep to support your IVF cycle. A 2013 study found that women who slept for 7 to 8 hours each night had a higher pregnancy rate than those who slept for shorter (or longer) durations. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, you can take melatonin to naturally regulate your sleep schedule.
When sleeping before your embryo transfer, try to:
Keep your bedroom between 60 and 67* F
Diffuse lavender in your bedroom or bathroom
Avoid caffeine four to six hours before you go to sleep
Stop eating two to three hours before you go to sleep
Listen to relaxing music
Limit blue light and screen time at least 30 minutes before bed
Stretch gently and loosen your muscles before sleeping
Tip 6: Avoid extreme temperatures against your abdomen and uterus.
If you’ll be working throughout your bed rest, make sure to get a laptop tray or use some material that will block the heat from your laptop. Because the heat generated by your laptop (and other technology or devices) can be harmful to your uterus and fertility, it’s important to keep your laptop away from your body when preparing for the procedure.
However, this rule doesn’t just apply to technology -- it’s not a good idea to visit saunas, hot tubs, or other high-heat activities because these external agents can impact or inhibit your chances of a successful embryo transfer and pregnancy at the end of your IVF cycle.
Tip 7: Meal prep beforehand with healthy food.
Many fertility specialists suggest eating a high-fat, low-carb diet to reduce inflammation throughout the body, G.I. tract and reproductive system. This diet also aids hormone function because many female hormones are made from cholesterol, which derives from fats.
It’s also important to consume an antioxidant-rich diet before your embryo transfer, so fresh produce and fruit will be critical here.
Foods that are embryo-transfer friendly include:
- Whole grains found in quinoa, farro, and whole-grain pasta
- Legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas
- Healthy fats like avocado oil, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts and seeds
- Lean proteins like fish and chicken
- Fresh fruits and veggies (Berries, Pineapple)
Cold foods are not embryo-transfer friendly, so try to avoid:
- Cold beverages like smoothies and sodas
- Red meat products
- Highly processed foods
- Salt -- season with herbs and spices instead
Tip 8: Stay away from chemicals
During the FET process, it’s important to avoid items made with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs interfere with your hormones, reproductive health and prenatal development, and are also generally harmful to your overall health.
Some chemicals classified as EDCs found in everyday household products include Formaldehyde, Parabens, Benzophenone, Triclosan, BPAs, Phthalates, and Dioxins. To limit disruptions with the embryo transfer and IVF process, try to remove all strong chemicals and scented products.
Products to remove include:
- Nail polish
- Nonstick cooking tools
- Cosmetics with fragrance
- Soaps and moisturizers with fragrance
- Meat and dairy
- Stain-resistant materials
Tip 9: Plan ahead and pack your bag.
The last thing anyone wants to do before their embryo transfer is to sit in traffic and run behind schedule. Ask your doctor for logistics before the embryo transfer procedure, such as:
- What you can bring to the appointment (ask if you can bring a camera - trust us, you’ll be happy you did!)
- How long you can expect to be at the clinic
- What time you should arrive
- What you’ll wear (try to avoid tight pants and remember socks!)
- Who will go with you
Tip 10: Come with a full bladder.
Follow your fertility specialist’s instructions for drinking water beforehand, or you might be waiting until your bladder is full and ready. This helps change the angle of the uterus and makes the transfer easier, allowing your doctor to see the catheter clearly with a trans-abdominal ultrasound to achieve the best placement of your embryo during transfer.
Once you go through the embryo transfer process, it’s important to continue this line of care for yourself to best support the chances of a successful pregnancy. Continue to prioritize the health and wellbeing of your body throughout IVF and beyond, for you and your family.
Next steps for your frozen embryo transfer
If you’re considering parenthood, researching your fertility options, or simply looking into Assisted Reproductive Technology, every patient’s path toward pregnancy will look different. Individuals or couples considering different ART procedures can achieve their dreams of bringing a happy, healthy baby into the world.
Parenthood is a universal blessing, and everyone deserves the opportunity to bring a new family member into this world. Pacific Fertility Center of Los Angeles has been bringing babies into the world since 1991, supporting patients in over 75 countries and setting standards of transparency and accountability across the ART community for 30 years.
The fertility specialists at Pacific Fertility Center Los Angeles would be happy to answer any further questions you may have regarding your embryo transfer process. To speak with one of our doctors, schedule a personal consultation below.