The days following an embryo transfer treatment can be both exciting and emotional. It's good to understand what's happening in your body after the treatment so you know what symptoms to expect. Some women don't experience any symptoms at all. This is actually completely normal. Being symptom-free does not mean the transfer was unsuccessful. Also remember that your post transfer timeline can vary depending on whether you underwent a 3 day or 5 day embryo transfer.
In this article, we'll provide some information as a general guide to what's happening in your body following your embryo transfer treatment. But remember — every woman and even every pregnancy is unique, so there's no singular experience that you can expect in the days to come.
The 11-Day Wait After an Embryo Transfer
The one-and-a-half to two-week waiting period following an embryo transfer can be a challenging time. You may feel excitement and anticipation or fear and anxiety, or a combination of all these emotions! It's also common to feel confused as you wonder what's happening and what your symptoms (or lack thereof) say about the success of the treatment.
Time may seem to move at a snail's pace and it may be hard to focus on your daily responsibilities of work, family, and everything else going on. In fact, you may feel tempted to take a pregnancy test earlier than what your doctor recommended. But just remember that an early pregnancy test will not be effective in detecting early pregnancy. Save yourself the stress of feeling disappointed by waiting until your body is actually ready to give you accurate results.
Instead, spend the next several days incorporating some helpful coping strategies into your daily routine. Here are some ideas to inspire your self-care habits:
Focus on relaxing activities that you enjoy
Confide your emotions in friends or family who will listen
Join an online support group of women going through the same process
Create a mindfulness and meditation routine
Reassure yourself that your embryo transfer procedure was conducted by a qualified medical professional with your best interest in mind
Educate yourself about what's going on in your body
No Symptoms in 11 Days After an Embryo Transfer
Many women have no symptoms after an embryo transfer. Is that normal?
Yes, it is totally normal for women whose embryo transfers are successful to feel no noticeable signs or symptoms in the first 11 days after their transfer. Symptoms do not indicate whether or not the transfer was successful. Many pregnant women don't experience symptoms until five to six weeks after a missed period, or even later. In fact, 1 in 475 women do not feel pregnancy symptoms until the 20th week of pregnancy or later, whether or not an embryo transfer was used.
In the case of embryo transfers, 10 to 15% of women report having no post-transfer symptoms in the first two weeks. So don't feel concerned if you're not experiencing symptoms. Your body may still be going through the physiological process that occurs after a successful embryo transfer treatment.
Here's what's happening inside your body in the days following your transfer, no matter how you're physically feeling.
Choosing a 5-Day Embryo Transfer
There are two type of embryo transfers: 3-day and 5-day transfers. The number of days refers to the amount of time after fertilization. The difference in these two procedures has to do with the stage of maturation of the embryo. A day-3 embryo only consists of six to eight cells, while a day-5 embryo has 80 to 100 cells. Oma Fertility specializes in using the 5-day embryo transfer. Studies show that using day-5 embryos results in higher implantation and pregnancy rates compared to day-3 embryos. But we don't just pick embryos at random. We are skilled at accurately determining the embryo grade before and after thawing to help maximize the chance of pregnancy, while also minimizing the chance of multiple births.
Day-by-Day Guide to 5-Day Embryo Transfers
Day 1 Post Transfer
Embryo development: At this stage, the embryo is considered a blastocyst. It's quickly dividing and creating new cells. On day one, the blastocyst starts the hatching process.
Day 2 Post Transfer
Embryo development: Hatching continues and the blastocyst will also start to attach to the uterus.
Day 3 Post Transfer
Embryo development: Implantation begins as the blastocyst implants further into the uterine lining.
Day 4 Post Transfer
Embryo development: The blastocyst continues the implantation process within the uterus.
Day 5 Post Transfer
Embryo development: Implantation is finalized. The blastocyst develops cells that will soon turn into the placenta and fetus.
Day 6 Post Transfer
Embryo development: The body starts to produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is the hormone that indicates the start of a successful pregnancy and is now introduced into the bloodstream.
Day 7 Post Transfer
Embryo development: The fetus continues to develop, as does the amount of hCG being produced within the body.
Day 8 Post Transfer
Embryo development: The same processes from day 7 continue, including fetal development and hCG production.
Day 9 Post Transfer
Embryo development: Fetal development keeps moving forward and there may be enough hCG in the body to accurately take a pregnancy test.
Complete List of Symptoms after Post-Embryo Transfer
As the female body progresses through each stage following the embryo transfer, many women experience additional symptoms because of the use of progesterone as part of the process. These symptoms are likely to occur early in the post-embryo transfer period because of the way progesterone impacts the body.
Additionally, the pregnancy hormone, hCG, is responsible for both the well known and lesser known symptoms of early pregnancy. These symptoms appear in some, but not all, women during the post-embryo transfer period. Although you may experience some of these symptoms, you are a unique individual. Not experiencing them does not mean anything is wrong because you are a unique individual. You can watch for pregnancy symptoms after a 5-day embryo transfer, but don't rely on them as a sign of the success of the process.
Read on to learn more about what your body may experience after embryo transfer, with day by day symptoms from either pregnancy, progesterone, or a combination of both.
Light Bleeding or Spotting
It's normal to experience light bleeding or spotting within the first week after your embryo transfer. There are a few different reasons this could happen. It could simply be from a minor scraping of the cervix during the embryo transfer, especially if you notice the spotting in the days immediately following the procedure.
Seven days after embryo transfer, symptoms like bleeding could occur during implantation. But not bleeding on those days does not indicate an unsuccessful transfer. And the timeline can vary for each unique individual with implantation able to occur anywhere between five and seven days.
Finally, taking hormone medication like progesterone can also cause light bleeding in the two-week period after your embryo transfer takes place.
Some women may also feel light cramping in the two or three days following the procedure. And just like spotting, you may also feel implantation cramping on days five through seven. But it's also important to remember that progesterone supplements can also cause cramping. So whether you actually experience cramping or not, it's not a sign pointing to a successful (or unsuccessful) transfer. It could be happening for a few different reasons.
Change in amount of vaginal discharge
This is another bodily change that could be attributed to either progesterone or early pregnancy. Many women experience a change or increase in the amount of vaginal discharge within the two weeks following the embryo transfer. Progesterone supplements are often used to improve the chances of a successful implantation. It can be confusing that the symptoms overlap with early pregnancy symptoms, but it's an important part of maximizing the results of the procedure.
After the completion of the embryo transfer, you may notice significant changes in your breasts, due to either progesterone supplements or pregnancy. The breasts may harden, the areolas may darken, and you may experience a tingling of the nipples in the days following the transfer due to progesterone symptoms.
Early pregnancy symptoms related to the breasts include swelling and tenderness. This is more likely to happen after implantation occurs, which would be around the seven-day mark or later.
It's normal to experience some, all, or even none of these symptoms in your breasts, since every woman's body reacts differently to the embryo transfer process during IVF.
Nausea is by far the most well known early pregnancy sign. However, it's also a common symptom for women undergoing IVF treatments and embryo transfer. You could experience nausea at any point during fertility treatments so it's hard to use this as a sign of a successful pregnancy. In fact, 20 to 30% of pregnant women don't experience any type of nausea, vomiting, or other type of morning sickness.
Consequently, a lack of nausea does not mean that you're not pregnant. And because of the nature of IVF and embryo transfers, having nausea is also not an automatic indication of pregnancy. Unfortunately, this symptom is not a strong enough indicator to view it as a confirmation of pregnancy one way or the other.
Increased levels of both progesterone and hCG can cause fatigue to IVF patients. You may experience fatigue throughout your fertility treatments because of hormonal treatments used to promote ovulation, or after the embryo transfer when taking progesterone supplements. Elevated tiredness from hormonal supplements can occur throughout the IVF process.
However, natural fatigue can also be an early pregnancy symptom, particularly in the two or three weeks following the embryo transfer. Plus, the physical and emotional experience of balancing fertility treatments with your other responsibilities in life can also make you feel more tired than usual.
Instead of trying to gauge the success of the embryo transfer by your fatigue levels, try to give yourself some extra time to rest and relax in a way that feels rejuvenating to you.
Absence of menstruation
The absence of menstruation is a clear sign of pregnancy, but only if you're used to having regular cycles. Even if your period is later than you expect, it's still important to wait nine days after a 5-day embryo transfer before you take a pregnancy test. This gives your body time to produce enough hCG levels to provide accurate test results.
No matter what you tell yourself, receiving a negative test result, even if it's a false negative, can be an emotional blow. If you're going to receive a positive pregnancy test post-transfer, it is likely to occur after the nine-day mark once the body's hCG level has reached 25 mIU/mL.
Testing for Pregnancy After an Embryo Transfer
Following day 9, which is the final day of the 5-day embryo transfer, enough time will have passed to determine if the levels of hCG in your bloodstream indicate a successful pregnancy.
At this point, you may utilize a home pregnancy test to determine whether or not the transfer has resulted in a pregnancy.
If the test results are positive, contact your doctor's office about next steps.
If the test results are negative, retest over the next few days. An hCG level of 25 mIU/mL is the amount needed to trigger a positive at-home pregnancy test. But there is a wide gray area of anywhere between 6 and 24 mIU/mL that could be rising and successfully support a pregnancy. Either way, call your doctor to discuss the best path forward.