Although a frozen embryo transfer is a routine procedure, taking proper care of yourself after appointments is essential in reducing possible side effects, promoting your safety, and increasing the likelihood of positive signs for healthy fertilization and pregnancy. The final step in the IVF cycle, an embryo transfer is a long-awaited procedure aimed at helping women who struggle with infertility become pregnant after weeks of taking fertility medications in preparation.
When your embryos have been frozen, facing the waiting period before a transfer can make your anticipation even stronger. After all, a frozen embryo transfer is the final step of your long-term investment toward adding a member to your family.
Perhaps you want to give your body downtime after an egg retrieval procedure, or maybe your focus was originally fertility preservation, but you finally feel ready to get pregnant with the egg or embryo of a previous cycle.
No matter the reason, an embryo transfer can cue many emotions, from excitement and hope over the possibility of becoming pregnant, to anxiety and helplessness that there is nothing further to do but wait until you can take a pregnancy test.
Although completely normal to feel this way, you can rest assured that frozen embryos are just as effective as fresh ones, with some studies actually indicating that they may offer improved success rates. Frozen transfers allow time for a woman’s hormones and biology to recover from the influence of the fertility medications that were used for the retrieval.
Furthermore, gaining an understanding of the frozen embryo transfer procedure and what to expect during the following days can help you feel more comfortable and prepared for the results of your IVF cycle.
To ensure you gain a strong grasp of the entire process, this blog will cover multiple stages of the treatment, including:
- The frozen embryo transfer procedure
- Post-procedure guidelines
- Why you should hold off on taking a home pregnancy
- Post-procedure symptoms
- Healthy habits that promote successful fertilization
- Receiving your clinic pregnancy test results
So what will actually happen during your frozen embryo transfer appointment?
The day of your IVF frozen embryo transfer (FET)
A frozen embryo transfer is a simple procedure and often doesn’t require pain relief, though medicated and partially medicated treatments are offered for your comfort. A doctor will conduct the frozen embryo transfer with a fine transfer catheter to place the thawed embryos past the cervix into your uterus.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the placement of the embryos within the uterus is very specific, which is why this procedure is guided by an ultrasound. This use of the ultrasound also helps promote your comfort, as it gives the doctor additional visibility of the perfect placement for the catheter, which can reduce the possibility of it touching your cervix. If this does occur, fear not, you will only experience a mild cramping sensation.
Once the transfer is complete, you will be given around an hour to lie down on your back and relax, however, you may not need all of this time as it is not a largely invasive procedure. In total, the entire procedure and included rest time only takes place over the course of 2 to 4 hours.
Your fertility clinic will always offer you detailed instructions after appointments, with the goal of making you feel comfortable and confident that you are taking care of yourself during the days leading up to the post-embryo transfer pregnancy test.
Some doctors recommend 24-hour bed rest post-procedure, while other sources recommend relying on low impact movement to cause blood flow to the uterus with the hopes of increasing the chance of pregnancy.
There is no evidence that suggests a perfect post-procedure recommendation so do what feels best, whether your day entails napping or a short, light walk to relieve stress. There is, however, a consensus that it is not recommended to do high or even moderate levels of activity.
Most patients will take the rest of their day off to relax at home before resuming activity the next day. A further prescription of progesterone may be suggested to patients wishing for additional reassurance of a healthy pregnancy start.
What to expect following your IVF frozen embryo transfer
Though this procedure will be an exciting new beginning for many, you may feel anxious about your next steps as you wait the required time before taking a pregnancy test. This test will determine if the embryo has successfully implanted and resulted in pregnancy.
Blood pregnancy test two weeks after your IVF-FET
Although you may be tempted to take a pregnancy test a few days after your IVF frozen embryo transfer, fertility clinics strongly recommend you wait the typical two-week period first. There is a reason for this -- ensuring you get accurate results and helping you manage the many emotions that inherently occur during this process.
Clinics recommend a two-week wait after your embryo transfer because taking a pregnancy test too soon after the frozen egg transfer often produces false results. This happens because the hormone used to measure pregnancy within a pregnancy test, referred to as hCG, can vary in levels depending on your current phase within your fertility journey. For instance, very early pregnancy often doesn’t result in much natural hCG production, causing you to get a distressing false-negative result.
Possible symptoms after your Frozen Embryo Transfer
During the two-week period between your frozen embryo transfer and pregnancy test, symptoms similar to menstruation, or being on your period, may arise. However, it's completely okay to have no symptoms after your embryo transfer. Everybody is different!
It's important to note that there are no 'good' or 'bad' symptoms after your embryo transfer.
However, let's cover some of the symptoms you may experience after your embryo transfer and what they may mean.
1. Light spotting or bleeding
Often, light spotting can be the first signs of pregnancy. If you notice light bleeding on your underwear or toilet paper when you wipe, this could be an indicator that the FET was successful and the embryo has implanted on your uterus wall.
However, many see bleeding as a concerning sign and often fails to provide reassurance for many women after their procedure. In addition, spotting can occur when taking hormone medications like progesterone during the 2-week period after the embryo transfer.
2. Cramping and pelvic pain
While many women often experience cramping before and during a menstrual cycle, pelvic discomfort can also indicate that the embryo transfer procedure was successful. During your 2-week wait, pelvic discomfort and cramping may also be related to progesterone and fertility medications.
And for some women, cramping may occur immediately after any pelvic procedure. To learn more about abdominal pain and fertility procedures, check out this resource.
3. Fatigue and tiredness
Feeling tired is a normal part of pregnancy, and is especially true for women undergoing assisted reproductive procedures and fertility medications. As progesterone levels increase, you may feel extra fatigued early on in your IVF journey.
Women often feel fatigued around the beginning of their period. While this could indicate a successful embryo transfer, it could also just be a side effect of the various fertility drugs you’re taking. Whether or not you're fatigued after your embryo transfer and during the 2-week wait, make sure to get plenty of rest.
4. Tender, sore breasts
For some women, an early sign of pregnancy (and a successful embryo transfer) are tender, sensitive breasts. If your breasts are swollen or tender to touch, this could be a sign of a positive embryo transfer! Still, this can be a side effect of your injectable and oral progesterone or other fertility hormones you take during the 2-week wait.
Morning sickness or nausea typically start in the second month of pregnancy, so it's not a symptom women normally experience in the 2-week wait after a fresh or frozen embryo transfer.
Many women who feel nauseous say they feel sick to their stomach around two weeks after missing their period. If you do experience vomiting or nausea during the two-week wait, we encourage you to speak to your reproductive endocrinologist.
6. Increased need to pee
Frequent trips to the bathroom can be an early sign of pregnancy. In fact, some women notice an increased need to urinate even before they miss their period. This may be due to increased levels of pregnancy hormone hCG, or progesterone spikes.
If your embryo transfer was successful, more frequent urination is a result from extra blood in your body. However, if you're experiencing painful urination, bleeding, fever, or vomiting, please contact your fertility doctor.
7. Changes in vaginal discharge
If you experience more vaginal discharge than normal following the seven days after your embryo transfer, look for a white, slightly odorus vaginal discharge. This can indicate the transfer was a success and you're pregnant!
However, if you're experiencing itching, burning, discharge or even yeast infections, this may be caused by your vaginal tablets, gel or suppositories.
8. Missed periods
If you have a consistent, regular menstrual cycle and you've missed your period following an embryo transfer, this can be a positive sign the transfer was a success! It may be time to take a pregnancy test, and reach out to your fertility clinic.
9. No symptoms after your embryo transfer
If you haven't experienced any of the above symptoms, don't worry--10 to 15% of women don't have symptoms following their embryo transfer, and these side effects are often a combination of progesterone and estrogen.
Positive signs after an embryo transfer are hard to distinguish from premenstrual symptoms and early signs of pregnancy, so it’s best to relax and avoid interpreting them as one or the other. However, none of these symptoms should be severe, and if this occurs it’s important to contact your clinic for further instruction.
It’s important to note that, although medical procedures inherently carry risks, an established IVF clinic has doctors who are highly trained in assisted reproductive treatments, which further lowers your chance of contracting a rare complication.
Improving your chances of success after Embryo Transfers
By the time your frozen embryo transfer is complete, you have done all processes to improve the chances of successful embryo transfer. This means that during the two weeks before you can take a pregnancy test, your only job is to relax.
This entails making sure you are getting enough sleep and avoiding substances that could risk the pregnancy, such as caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
In most cases, you will be asked to avoid heavy exercise and sexual intercourse, as possible uterine contractions can reduce the efficacy of the procedure if the embryo is hindered during the implantation process. This recommendation is also given to promote your comfort and safety, because physical activity brings a higher risk of complications, such as an ovary becoming twisted, which becomes more possible as your ovaries naturally expand and become tender after the transfer procedure.
You should also eat a healthy diet consisting of lots of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods that are risky during pregnancy, such as unpasteurized dairy products or raw seafood, and make sure to consult your medical specialist for a list of products to avoid.
Another essential component to being healthy during this time is ensuring you have emotional support and people to turn to as you wait for the hopeful results. This support can come in many forms, whether it’s your partner or family, a therapist, friends, or even something simple like an online Facebook group of people going through the same process.
Taking a pregnancy test post-frozen embryo transfer [the 2-week-wait]
Next comes what you’ve been waiting for -- the first pregnancy test after the frozen embryo transfer. To get a more accurate reading, you will be booked for an appointment within your fertility clinic two weeks after the initial transfer, where they will perform a blood test to determine the pregnancy result.
If your clinic pregnancy test is positive, congratulations! You are officially pregnant and your frozen embryo transfer was successful. This means you will remain under the care of the fertility clinic to further monitor the pregnancy development with ultrasounds and blood tests until you are 8 to 10 weeks pregnant. You will then be transferred to your regular ob-gyn to continue on your amazing journey to have a baby.
If your test results are negative, we understand how disheartening it can feel. Medical specialists are sympathetic to how upsetting it can be to not get your desired result and can provide means of support in processing the outcome of the treatment.
Many couples take comfort in that, depending on the source of infertility, it is not uncommon for couples to undergo a previous failed embryo transfer before finally achieving the pregnancy they dreamed of in their second IVF cycle.
Most of all, it’s important to surround yourself with a network of friends and family who are supportive and offer the reminder that you are a fulfilled person whether or not your fertility treatment is successful.
It’s completely normal for fertility journeys to have many ups and downs, and a failed pregnancy test doesn’t mean that your journey has to come to an end. Your medical specialist will be able to give you an honest assessment of further fertility treatments that you are a candidate for. You can then work together to determine your next steps if you wish to pursue other fertility options or an additional IVF cycle.
When beginning a new IVF cycle, some patients and doctors agree to wait an additional cycle to give your body some rest time, while others feel comfortable resuming treatment soon after your results. This will be dependent on various factors such as the state of your health, your ovulation cycle, etc.
Preparing for a Frozen Embryo Transfer with PFCLA
Whether you are hoping to preserve your fertility for the future or have a health issue that may affect your egg supply, frozen embryo transfers are provided at PFCLA’s Los Angeles and Glendale, CA offices.
Our staff and doctors are ready to guide you through cost-effective IVF treatments and explain the processes of a frozen embryo transfer. Request a consultation to learn frozen embryo transfer guidelines, costs, and how it can be personalized to your unique fertility journey in making your dreams of having a healthy, happy baby possible.
We look forward to determining your best fertility options and providing you with an optimal plan based on your needs and preferences.
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