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There is a lot of planning involved during the IVF treatment process, depending on your requirements. The best treatment options are recommended based on various factors that can influence your chances of getting pregnant.
After the egg retrieval process of the IVF process, the final step is embryo transfer. This usually takes place 2–5 days post egg retrieval and is a simpler and quicker technique.
Let’s talk about the embryo transfer procedure:
This procedure doesn’t take very long and can be done without anesthesia or sedation. A speculum (a medical tool) is used to spread the vagina and hold it open so the cervix can be cleansed.
The embryos are inserted into a thin and soft catheter, which is then passed through the cervix and into the uterus for the embryo transfer.
The doctor will use an abdominal ultrasound to guide the catheter for embryo transfer, which can be seen on the ultrasound screen.
Once the transfer has been done, the patient is positioned on their back, with their legs slightly elevated for 30 minutes.
How does the embryologist decide what embryos to transfer?
Embryo quality plays a significant role in increasing the chances of pregnancy. On the day of embryo transfer, the embryos are analyzed and photographed by the embryologist. To choose which embryos to transfer depends on the rate of development, appearance, and the recommended number of embryos to transfer. Different grading systems are typically used to assess embryo quality on the days leading up to the embryo transfer.
Day 3 & Day 5 Embryo Transfers
Day 3 Transfers
Embryos transferred on Day 3 post egg retrieval are at the cleavage stage and contain approximately 8–12 cells. When the embryos are analyzed before the transfer, the embryologist looks for the number of cells and how symmetrical they are. When cells divide unevenly, there can be some fragmentation.
Day 5 Transfer
Embryos on Day 5 are known as blastocysts. At this stage, the embryos are slightly larger and further developed, resembling a ball of cells containing fluid. This is why doctors may recommend Day 5 transfers to increase implantation chances; as better embryo selection as per the grading system can be made at this stage of embryo development. The quality of the egg is determined by how much it has expanded. The more the embryo has expanded, the better the quality.
Let’s take a closer look at what happens after a Day 5 embryo transfer.
Once the embryos are transferred, you are waiting for implantation to occur and for hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone levels to rise to take a pregnancy test.
Day 1: The process of hatching occurs as the blastocyst begins to hatch out of its shell. The cells will continue to divide.
Day 2: Hatching continues, and the blastocyst will begin an incredibly important part of the process, by attaching itself to the uterine lining.
Day 3: For implantation to successfully occur, the blastocyst attaches deeper into the uterus lining. Some bleeding or spotting is normal at this stage.
Day 4: The blastocyst continues to go deeper into the uterus to attach itself to the endometrial blood supply.
Day 5: Now attached to the endometrial blood supply, implantation is complete, and the blastocyst will begin to develop further. As well as the blastocyst, other cells will start forming the placenta.
Day 6: The hormone hCG starts increasing in the blood from the placenta cells. Along with hCG, progesterone levels increase to strengthen and prepare the uterus lining for the first trimester.
Day 7: The blastocyst is now a fetus. hCG levels continue to increases as the placenta further develops.
It is still too early to take a pregnancy test as it can give inaccurate results. It is recommended to take a blood test around Day 11–14 depending on a Day 3 or Day 5 transfer, for a more accurate result. You can always take a urine test after as well to confirm.
Tips to Increase Implantation Chances
This is, of course, a frequently asked question by many women. Although you may often believe bed rest and lying in certain positions can increase your chances, studies are yet to find its relevance.
It is advised that women take more care in managing any stress or anxiety. The waiting period is a nervous and anxious time, but you can distract yourself with light activities like walking that can help you relax or even focus on work projects.
Do not participate in excessive exercise or lift heavy objects. Avoiding hot baths and higher temperatures are also advised as it can affect the embryo’s progress.
During IVF treatment, the Mediterranean diet, which includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats, is highly recommended. This particular diet offers well-balanced and highly-nutritious meals for a healthier body.
Also, avoid using certain household products and beauty products that can contain a lot of harmful chemicals and find natural alternatives.
You may experience pregnancy symptoms two weeks post embryo transfer or earlier, depending on when the embryos were transferred.
However, before taking a pregnancy test to confirm, these symptoms cannot differentiate between pregnancy or another condition.
These symptoms include:
- Mild cramping or abdominal pain
- Breast tenderness
- Food cravings/food aversions
- Frequent urination
- Morning sickness
Light bleeding or spotting can also occur but can either indicate implantation or menses (discharge during menstruation), so it is essential to do a blood test to know the cause.
IVF treatment can be a stressful time with the different treatments, medications, and changes to your body. It is essential to do your research and ask your doctor questions to help you prepare both your mind and body for the journey ahead.