What to Expect During an Embryo Transfer

couple holding hands during consultation with reproductive endocrinologist

Embryo transfers can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. While embryo transfers are performed every day by Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologists like Dr. Dorette Noorhasan at CCRM Fertility of Dallas-Fort Worth, the anticipation may be scary for some first-time patients. Knowledge is power, and with Dr. Noorhasan’s help, we break down what to expect during an embryo transfer and how to prepare.

What is an embryo transfer?

An embryo transfer is a procedure where an embryo is placed into the uterus by using a small, thin catheter that often has the consistency of a spaghetti noodle. An embryo transfer can be done fresh (embryo transfer done just a few days after the egg retrieval) or frozen (the egg retrieval was done in a prior cycle and the embryo was frozen and subsequently thawed for the transfer).

What should I do in the days leading up to an embryo transfer?

The best thing you can do is stay as healthy as possible. You do not have to go on any extreme diets or train for a marathon. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting moderate exercise is appropriate. Getting a good night’s rest every night and cutting back stress is essential. Numerous studies have shown that stress can have a negative effect on embryo transfer outcomes.  

Is an embryo transfer painful or uncomfortable?

The embryo transfer is not painful, but it may be slightly uncomfortable for some patients because you must have a full bladder. Embryo transfers are typically done under ultrasound guidance where an abdominal ultrasound is done simultaneously as the speculum exam is done. A full bladder is necessary to visualize well on the abdominal ultrasound as well as help to straighten out the angle between the cervix and uterus, making an easier passage of the catheter into the uterus. 

What is the recovery time for an embryo transfer?

There is no real recovery time. Generally, this procedure is done with no medications or just valium (a pill that helps calm the nerves). It is rare to need anesthesia for an embryo transfer. Therefore, you can go home very quickly after the procedure. You do not need to sit with your legs up for four hours like we once thought many years ago! You can go about your daily activities. I would, however, recommend taking the day off from work so that you are not stressed.

When will I find out if the embryo transfer was successful?

Most embryo transfers today are done when the embryo is at the blastocyst stage. Therefore, the serum (blood) pregnancy test is 9 – 10 days after the embryo transfer. We recommend a serum pregnancy test because occasionally a urinary pregnancy test might be incorrect. This is such an important event in your life that you want an accurate result!

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