The Embryo Transfer Stage of the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Process

Many people face challenges conceiving naturally. This can prove disheartening, frustrating, and discouraging. Thankfully, there are many options for starting that family you’ve always wanted. Modern fertility treatments have helped so many; they can truly make dreams come true. One of the most popular fertility treatments is in vitro fertilization or IVF for short. Out of all the stages of IVF, the IVF embryo transfer stage may just be the most exciting. This is how to prepare for and recover after this process.

What are the stages of IVF?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most well-known and popular fertility treatments for starting a family.

During the IVF process, there are generally four stages you'll undergo. You'll start with ovarian stimulation, which is when you take medications to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple, additional eggs. After, your doctor will retrieve those eggs just before ovulation occurs. You can learn more about the full IVF egg retrieval process in our post on the topic. Those eggs are then fertilized with previously-gathered sperm in a lab setting during what's known as the fertilization process.

Finally, the IVF embryo transfer takes place.

Embryo transfer is one of the final stages of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. It's done after your eggs have been inseminated in the lab and are successfully fertilized. This is when your doctor will place a viable embryo into your womb and, if the IVF process is successful, a healthy pregnancy will occur.

Dr. Sissy Sartor discusses more about the stages of IVF in the following video.

The Stages of IVF

How to prepare for the IVF embryo transfer

The transfer of  fresh embryos is performed on the fifth day after fertilization or, if they are developing slowly, on the sixth day.  In some cases, your doctor may recommend transfer on the third day.

To prepare for the procedure, follow all of your doctor's recommendations as they know your body best. You can also find our suggestions in an earlier post on preparing for your embryo transfer. These include:

  • Taking any doctor-prescribed fertility medications or supplements
  • Getting your body ready for pregnancy with fertility massages and yoga
  • Increasing blood circulation by keeping your body warm and adding in light exercise
  • Eating a balanced diet focused on whole foods and avoiding harmful substances
  • Ensuring you get plenty of restorative sleep and managing stress

What can I expect during the IVF embryo transfer?

As with all fertility treatments, each case is unique. While we give a common description of an IVF embryo transfer here, yours may differ based on your needs.

For example, this process can be performed using your own eggs or fertilized eggs from an egg donor. It can also be performed using a surrogate carrier, which is another woman who carries the embryo to term. Your fertility specialist will discuss all of your options and the best potential course for your own fertility journey during the consultation process.

To start, follow your doctor's instructions for the days leading up to and including transfer day. You'll continue taking fertility medications, but you may also receive other medications to relax your uterus for the procedure. On the day of, you'll usually be asked to come in with a full bladder as this tips the angle of the uterus for an easier transfer.

During the actual embryo transfer procedure, typically a single embryo is introduced into your uterus through a small catheter. A sonogram helps guide the catheter into place and ensures the successful transfer of the embryo and attachment to the uterine lining.

This procedure is fairly fast. It usually takes only 20 minutes and doesn't require anesthesia. You can also bring your partner or another person to be there with you.


How many embryos are implanted during IVF?

An earlier post covers the number of embryo transfers in more detail, but it's one of the most popular questions that people ask. To answer it: the majority of people receive a single embryo transfer.

While you may have wished for twins or a "one and done" IVF experience, research shows that multiple-order births are riskier for the babies and mother. Because of this, the number of embryos transfered is governed by CDC and SART guidelines.

If you're under the age of 38 and the embryo has been determined to be genetically normal by PGT (preimplantation genetic testing), ASRM Guidelines recommend that you receive one embryo. Those who are over the age 38 to 40, or less than 30, and have undergone multiple unsuccessful IVF cycles may have 2 embryos transferred. Those age 41 to 42 may have 3 embryos transferred.

Precautions to take after IVF embryo transfer

Cramping, soreness, and spotting are all common after an embryo transfer. After your procedure, you'll be able to rest at the clinic for a bit before returning home.

Your doctor will also thoroughly discuss any recovery instructions. Make sure to follow these. You may be asked to avoid intercourse, heavy exercise, or other activities for a period of time.

Once you do get home, you should try to relax and not engage in any vigorous physical activities for at least eight hours. If possible, spend the next few days focusing on restorative self-care. You usually don't need to take the day off after the transfer, but if you can, it can be a great time to relax, pamper yourself, and reflect.

When will I know if the IVF embryo transfer worked?

Your fertility specialist will set up a time to test for pregnancy about two weeks after your embryo transfer. For multiple reasons we discuss in an earlier post, try to wait for this appointment rather than using at-home pregnancy tests.

If you would like to learn more about your fertility treatment options and how you can finally start the family you've always wanted, contact The Fertility Institute of New Orleans today. We welcome clients from all over Louisiana and our neighboring states. Our entire team here looks forward to meeting you in person and helping you throughout your fertility journey.

Originally posted on March 13, 2014.