After an IVF embryo transfer (ET), achieving success depends exclusively on the embryos and their implantation potential. In spite of that, it is common for patients to ask themselves many questions, including what to do and what to avoid, if rest is necessary and to what extent, what are the precautions to be taken… In short, anything that may help to increase the chances for pregnancy.
Once the patient has left the transfer room, a completely different life from the one she had during the treatment begins: The embryo(s) have already been transferred, and here starts the countdown until the pregnancy test.
The various sections of this article are assembled in the following table of contents.
Tips & precautions
There are many recommendations to follow after an embryo transfer. However, the most important thing for you to do is as simple as continuing with your normal lifestyle, trying not to become too obsessed with getting pregnant. To sum up, these are the most basic tips that every IVF patient should follow after an ET:
- After an embryo transfer, a 30-minute rest at the clinic is recommended. There is no need for extending this reasonable time period, and patients can return home to continue with their normal lifestyles. It is, however, advisable to avoid great physical efforts, such as vigorous sports or heavy lifting. Aside from that, you can rest assured that you can continue with your normal daily activities.
- Daily activity
- Except for vigorous activities, life goes on after the embryo transfer and daily activities such as going out, walking, driving and even working can be carried out without any problem provided that they do not imply a huge physical effort.
- Drinking plenty of water
- It is always highly recommendable to drink abundant liquids, observing that micturition is normal and restricting the consumption of salt as much as possible.
- Sexual intercourse
- It is also important not to engage into sexual intercourse before taking the pregnancy test. This period is known as pelvic rest.
- Hot water immersion baths
- The patient must prevent herself from hot water immersion baths of the type bathtub, swimming pool, or beach in order to avoid possible infections and not to interfere with the medications taken.
- The only medications to be administered are the ones prescribed by your OB/GYN during the treatment, in which extra doses of progesterone are usually maintained to support the functionality of the corpus luteum until approximately the week 12th of pregnancy. In that moment, the gynecologist may decide to reduce the dose or to stop it, since by that time the placenta already generates concentrated-enough progesterone to make external support unnecessary.
If medication is required due to any type of discomfort like headache, toothache, or any other infection alike, it is advisable to talk to the specialist who monitored the treatment. Either way, analgesic consumption is not a problem as long as it is paracetamol or any other similar painkiller.
- Staying positive
- Optimism can make a difference after an embryo transfer. Avoiding stress and anxiety, and not becoming obsessed with the potential outcomes is material to achieving success in IVF. Having hobbies and leisure activities of your choice can be extremely helpful to prevent yourself from overthinking. Meditation and yoga classes can be helpful as well.
Symptoms & positive signs
Symptoms vary from woman to woman, and even between pregnancies among women who have been pregnant before. Neither should you be concerned if no symptoms appear—it is not mandatory for every IVF patient to feel them. And most importantly, it does not translate into implantation failure by default.
The most common symptoms after embryo transfer can be caused by the beginning of a new pregnancy or by the fertility drugs you are taking. In other words, they do not indicate failure or success. These are the most frequent ones:
- Abundant vaginal discharge during the first days after the ET, due to elevated/altered hormonal levels and the vaginal administration of progesterone.
- Spotting or mild bleeding caused by the passage of the catheter through the cervix; it often disappears within 2-3 days.
- Breast changes caused by the exogenous administration of hormones before the transfer (estrogens and progesterone).
- Fatigue as a side effect of your increased progesterone levels, which can be caused either by pregnancy or progesterone supplements.
- Nausea, due to increased hormonal levels.
- Frequent urination caused by rising hCG hormone levels, either caused by a new pregnancy or as an adverse reaction of hCG injections.
- Missed/delayed period
- Discomfort around the abdominal area and lower back pain caused by hormonal changes after ovarian stimulation and the preparation of the endometrium.
The symptoms that we have just listed can appear irrespective of whether it was a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) or a fresh transfer, or if it was a day-3 or day-5 embryo.
It is advisable for you to contact the center that has been monitoring your treatment in case symptoms like bleeding, fever, vomits, swelling and abdominal pain, or even shortness of breath, show up.
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When to test for pregnancy
In natural pregnancies, the embryo attaches to the uterine lining about 6 to 8 days after entering the uterus. This means that embryo implantation occurs at blastocyst stage. In short, even though this is the precise moment when implantation takes place, the entire process can take up to one week to be fully completed.
In an IVF cycle, day-3 embryos should remain in the uterus at least for three more days until reaching blastocyst stage and being able to implant. However, day-5 embryos are already at blastocyst stage, which means that they are able to attach to the uterus immediately after the ET.
The only thing left to do to finish the unending wait is to do the pregnancy test. It is usually done 10-15 days following the date when the follicle puncture (egg collection) was performed. In case it was a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET), it can be done within 10 days, counting from the stage of embryo development in which the embryo was at the moment of the ET.
It is totally unadvisable to do a pregnancy test earlier than indicated, since the pregnancy hormone (hCG) increases progressively. For this reason, if one takes the test too early, you may get a false negative result, as the levels of hCG are insufficient as to be detectable.
This test may be performed in two ways: in urine or in blood. To do this, the patient must follow the instructions facilitated by the fertility center. Irrespective of wether you get a positive or negative outcome, you should always communicate it to the clinic, so that the guidelines to follow from that moment on can be established.
In the event of the result being positive, it is highly possible that you are advised to make an appointment with your gynecologist to have a first ultrasound done and check that everything is right.
If the result is negative but there is no vaginal bleeding, it is very possible that you are recommended to repeat the test within one week, as after this time period it could turn into positive.
If your menstrual period shows up, it means that a new cycle has started, and that pregnancy has not occurred. In other words, that unfortunately your IVF embryo transfer has failed.
The most important thing to do now is to keep calm and follow step by step the guidelines established by your fertility clinic. Take into account that their goal is the same as yours.
FAQs from users
What precautions should I follow after embryo transfer in ICSI?
The precautions to take after embryo transfer in ICSI are exactly the same as in any other infertility treatment: Avoiding stress, reducing the intake of caffeine or stopping it, avoiding vigorous exercises, abstaining from intercourse, not having hot baths, and staying positive above all.
Are bloating, cramping and pain good signs after embryo transfer?
Yes, these are considered to be normal symptoms after embryo transfer. As for pain, it is possible that, due to the stress generated during the treatment, the medications administered, and the manipulation of the uterus during the embryo transfer, the woman has headaches, stomachaches, or backaches.
If they range from mild to moderate intensity, there is no reason for you to be concerned. However, if it turns into an unbearable pain, we recommend that you visit your doctor.
How long does it take for the embryo to implant after embryo transfer?
As explained above, it takes more than one week for the embryo to implant since fertilization. To be precise, implantation takes place 6-8 days after the embryo enters the endometrial lining.
What should I eat after IVF embryo transfer?
In general, you should follow a healthy, balanced diet, avoiding junk food above all. Ideally, your diet should include a mix of fruits, protein- and carbohydrate-rich foods, vegetables, etc. Also, you should avoid taking caffeine. If you can’t stop drinking caffeinated drinks, limit your intake to a maximum of 200 mg per day.
What happens after embryo transfer on each day?
Supposing that the embryo continued to develop and that pregnancy occurred as expected, this is what one should expect from Day Post Transfer (DPT) 1 to 11 approximately:
- The embryo turns from a 6-8 cell embryo to a morula
- The cells of the morula continue dividing: the embryo reaches the blastocyst stage
- Once a blastocyst, the embryo starts to hatch out of its “shell”
- It begins to attach itself to the uterus
- The implantation process continues: the embryo attaches deeper into the uterus
- The implantation process continues
- The embryo implantation process finishes and the cells that will form both the placenta and the fetus begin to develop
- The production of hCG starts, and it begins to enter the bloodstream
- Fetal development begins and hCG levels continue doubling
- Fetal development continues and hCG levels continue increasing
- hCG levels start now to be high enough to be detectable by pregnancy tests
When is your period due if the embryo transfer doesn’t work?
Firstly, if adequate hormone replacement therapy is given in the luteal phase, then your period should not show up until fertility medications are stopped. In general, your period should not appear earlier than 12 days after your ET.
Can you fly right after IVF embryo transfer?
Yes, there is no problem with that. Your embryos will be okay, floating freely inside your uterus. You can travel without being concerned about staying laying down, or your embryos falling out after transfer.
What is the best sleep position after embryo transfer?
Actually, you can choose the sleep position that is most comfortable for you. It’s just as simple as that. There is no recommended sleep position, or a position that is unadvisable.
In fact, the common belief that bed rest is necessary after an ET is a myth that can be counterproductive, as it increases the levels of stress in the woman. It is erroneous to think that gravity can make the embryos fall out or reduce their possibilities of implanting.
How long after embryo transfer can you have intercourse?
It depends on a case-by-case basis, so you better follow your doctor’s instructions. Anyway, pelvic rest may be recommended anywhere from 5 to 15 days after the embryo transfer.
Can smoking affect implantation after embryo transfer?
Smoking tobacco can affect the proper growth of the embryo—and fetal development in case pregnancy occurs. Moreover, it can reduce your fertility and reduce your chances of getting pregnant. For this reason, we strongly recommend that all IVF patients stop smoking before, during, and after their infertility treatment at once.
Suggested for you
This post is a summary of the general tips and symptoms that you are likely to feel after an IVF embryo transfer procedure. However, if you want to delve deeper into the most common symptoms after an ET, we recommend that you go visit this complete guide: Symptoms After Embryo Transfer: Most Common Positive Signs.
If the two-week wait has already come to its end for you, and you found out that you are pregnant… Congratulations! But now, what’s next? To learn more about the signs and symptoms often associated with embryo implantation, check this out: What Are the First Signs & Symptoms of Embryo Implantation?
Finally, we have made references to day-3 and day-5 embryo transfers, and the main difference between them when it comes to determining the moment of embryo implantation. Want to get more details about the differences between them? Get answers here: Embryo Transfer on Day 3 or on Day 5?