By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 03/05/2018

The two-week wait or 2WW is defined as the timeframe from the end of a fertility treatment or ovulation, and the moment when she can take a pregnancy test.

The 2WW covers a period of two weeks during which all women pay special attention to the most common pregnancy symptoms, which may indicate whether their IVF or IUI treatment has been successful or not.

Moreover, the 2WW comes along with different symptoms and concerns for these women and their partners, as in most cases they are unaware of what to do and not to do throughout this time period.

What is the 2WW?

It takes around 15 days from the insertion of the semen sample (artificial insemination) or the embryo transfer (in vitro fertilization) up until the pregnancy test. And the same applies after ovulation, a period known as days post ovulation or DPO.

Although some may think it is a short period of time, the truth is these two long weeks turn out to be an emotional roller-coaster ride for some intended parents.

On the one hand, they may feel euphoria, hope, and illusion for the new addition to the family; on the other hand, stress, anxiety, helplessness, and nervousness before the idea that the result of the pregnancy test may be negative.

This moment is known as two-week wait, 2WW or TWW, since usually the period of time during which a woman or couple has to wait to take a pregnancy test and be able to get an accurate result involves two weeks.

Beta-hCG hormone

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is an hormone released by the embryo from the moment of implantation to the maternal uterus, and later by the syncytiotrophoblast (i.e. placenta).

This hormone triggers progesterone production by the corpus luteum, which allows the development of the endometrium—a.k.a. uterine lining—with the subsequent fetal development.

As fetal development progresses, beta-hCG levels keep on increasing eventually up until the second or third month of pregnancy. From this stage on, they will start diminishing.

This is the reason why experts do recommend to wait for at least 15 days to take the pregnancy test, since if taken too early, hormone levels may be insufficient as to be detectable with this measuring instrument. If taken in due time, results you may obtain are more accurate, thereby preventing you from getting a false positive or negative result.

The two-week wait symptoms

First of all, it should be noted that feeling symptoms during the two-week wait does not mean that pregnancy has been achieved. During the first days, the embryo has not attached to the uterus yet.

After an infertility treatment, the symptoms you are likely to feel are related to the side effects of ovarian stimulation medications, as well as to the progesterone capsules that you have to continue using even after having finished the treatment.

The two-week wait symptoms can appear irrespective of whether you get a positive or a negative pregnancy test result. Moreover, having no symptoms during this timeframe is normal as well.

The following are some of the most common symptoms associated with the two-week wait:

  • Lower back pain
  • Cramping and ovarian pain
  • Spotting or brown discharge
  • Frequent urination
  • Watery or yellowish vaginal discharge
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Headache
  • Swollen breasts
  • Headache and nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia

Other symptoms reported by women include dry/cotton mouth, thirst and hunger, stomach cramps, diarrhea, elevated basal body temperature, cramps in the pelvic area, gassy stomach, acne and pimples, hot flashes, general malaise, shortness of breath, etc.

What to do and not to do

Once the woman has been inseminated or the embryo transferred to her uterus, there is nothing left she can do but to wait for the moment when she is able to take a pregnancy test. To sum up, this period is often an emotional roller-coaster for the intended parents.

The following are some tips to survive the 2WW:

  • Continue with your normal lifestyle: This is essential, although always following medical advice for each particular situation. Keep yourself busy with work and leisure activities, as it prevents oneself from overthinking. Complete bed rest is not advisable.
  • No need for bed rest: Time off work is not necessary unless it poses a risk for you, e.g. lifting heavy weight. In any case, you should always follow your doctor’s instructions.
  • Try not to become obsessed with the symptoms: It is complicated, but fundamental at the same time. Many women do believe they are experiencing non-existent symptoms, or tend to exaggerate mild nausea, general malaise, or pains which may not be linked to pregnancy, but they end up associating them inevitably.
  • Prepare yourself for a negative outcome: Despite advancements in reproductive medicine allow for the achievement of consistently high success rates, pregnancy is not always achieved. Even if a woman ends up pregnant, it may not work on the first or second tries. Being mentally prepared for a negative result may help you cope with failure, and subsequently avoid frustration.
  • Keep a positive attitude and stay calm: We know it is not easy, but it is indeed highly advisable, as it helps reducing stress and anxiety levels. Many couples take up breathing routines and relaxation exercises during the 2WW.
  • Support each other: As regards couples, mutual support and respect are crucial elements when enduring such a journey. Understand each other’s feelings and emotions is crucial.
  • Avoid discussing the topic again and again: You can talk about it of course, but preventing it from becoming the only topic of conversation, regardless of whether you are talking to a friend, a relative, or your own partner.
  • Psychological support: Seek professional support if you think it may be helpful, as it usually turns out to be a great relief for some couples.

By following these tips, not only you can help reduce the duration of the 2WW, but also cope with taking the sought-after pregnancy test, and face the outcome, whatever it might be.

FAQs from users

What are the most common BFP-two week wait symptoms?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Unfortunately, and as explained above, there are no definitive symptoms of a successful IVF embryo transfer during the two-week wait. Each woman is different, and so are the symptoms she is likely to experience after an IVF cycle.

What should you eat during the two week wait?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Broadly speaking, following a balanced diet which includes fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, etc. is the most advisable. Some specialists recommend including dried fruits and nuts, as well as gelatin, which is a protein-rich food. On the other hand, eating ham is unadvisable, as it increases the risk of having toxoplasmosis in case you’re pregnant.

As for what to drink, alcohol and fizzy drinks should be avoided at all costs. Staying hydrated is a must, so pay attention to drinking plenty of water. Include orange juice and isotonic drinks as well, given their high content in mineral salts.

Suggested for you

A blood pregnancy test is used to measure the levels of hCG in case the woman is pregnant. In order to be able to interpret the results accurately, we recommend that you visit the following post: What Are Normal hCG Hormone Levels during Pregnancy?

Also, you can get a much deeper insight about pregnancy testing with the following guide: When to Do a Pregnancy Test? – Instructions for Use, Results & Accuracy.

Whether you undergo a classical IVF or donor-egg IVF, the two-week wait starts right after the embryo transfer (ET). To learn more about this essential IVF step, read: IVF Embryo Transfer Procedure – Definition, Process & Tips.

Authors and contributors

 Zaira Salvador
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV). Embryologist specializing in Assisted Procreation, with a Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV) and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). More information
License: 3185-CV

3 comments

  1. Featured
    Livk

    When is it ok to exercise? My doctor told me not to work out for 3 days after my day 3 transfer…

    • Sandra Fernández

      Dear livk,

      If your doctor determined that you shouldn’t exercise for 3 days post embryo transfer, then you should follow his instructions. Each case may have certain particular needs. But, in general, women can continue with their normal lifestyle after embryo transfer, without lifting heavy weights and doing vigorous exercise, of course.

      I hope this helps,

      Best

  1. what to expect

    Getting through the 2ww is hard, but imagine when you’re a single mom… I had my embryo transferred with donor sperm a few weeks ago and this is my day 7th post embryo transfer… So nervous I can’t even eat or sleep 🙁