What is embryo transfer?
The transfer of the embryo inside the womb (embryo transfer) is the final stage of IVF.
Embryo transfer is carried out 2 – 5 days after the egg collection (in fresh cycles).
What do I need to do before the embryo transfer?
You just need to have an almost full bladder to make the procedure easier. If you have recently emptied your bladder, drink 2-3 glasses of water before going to the IVF unit.
How is the embryo transfer carried out?
This is a short and painless procedure that does not require any anaesthesia.
The woman prepares as for a smear test.
The fertility doctor places the same instrument used for the smear test in the vagina and cleans the neck of the womb (‘cervix’).
The embryos are then loaded into a small syringe which is attached to a thin and flexible plastic tube (‘catheter’).
The catheter passes through the cervix and when it reaches the cavity of the womb, the plunger of the syringe is advanced slowly and the embryos are deposited inside the womb.
The embryos will then hopefully implant and form a pregnancy.
The whole procedure is usually performed under ultrasound guidance to precisely confirm the location of the deposited embryos.
The woman then takes some medications and after 10-12 days a blood test is performed to determine if there is a pregnancy.
Ultrasound scans are then arranged as per any pregnancy.
On which day should the embryo transfer take place?
The day of the embryo transfer depends on the number and quality of the embryos available.
If there are many embryos, they are usually allowed to grow up to blastocyst stage. In this case, embryo transfer is scheduled for day 5 after the egg collection. Otherwise, embryo transfer is scheduled on day 2 or day 3.
How many embryos should be transferred?
The number of embryos for transfer should be decided aiming to satisfy two conflicting objectives:
- Increasing the chance of pregnancy (which is achieved by increasing the number of embryos transferred)
- Avoiding multiple pregnancies (e.g. twins, triplets) that may be accompanied by problems during pregnancy and beyond (which is achieved by reducing the number of transferred embryos)
The final decision is taken after the couple consults with the fertility expert and the embryologist.
In any case, Greek legislation sets limits on the number of embryos that can be transferred depending on the age of the woman:
- Up to 3 embryos (of her own eggs) can be transferred in women up to 40 years old
- Up to 4 embryos (of her own eggs) can be transferred in women over 40
It is worth noting that good quality embryos not selected for embryo transfer are frozen in order to remain available for future use.
What should I do after the embryo transfer?
Immediately after the embryo transfer, lie down for 20-30 minutes. Then you can go home.
You should take it easy for the next few days. It is advisable to avoid too much housework, standing for long periods of time and mental stress. There is no need to abstain from work as long as it is not tiring.
After all, women who continue their daily routine after embryo transfer can better cope with the stress of the IVF process. It is well known that the period of 2 weeks until the pregnancy test passes very slowly and is the most stressful part of IVF for many couples. That is why each couple must do whatever pleases them and try to keep their minds occupied.
Obviously, it is necessary to take the medications suggested by your doctor until it is time to do the pregnancy test.