What is an Embryo Transfer?

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An embryo transfer in simple terms is taking a fertilised egg and sperm cell and placing it inside a woman’s uterus. The placement of the fertilised egg cell must be precise which is why your doctor will use ultrasound when placing the fertilised egg cell. Using an ultrasound during this procedure will give the doctor visibility for the perfect placement of the catheter, it will also reduce the risk of the catheter touching your cervix. As part of the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) process, embryo transfers can improve your chance of conceiving. 


Why Do Intended Parents Choose Embryo Transfers?

Your fertility doctor will work with you to get to the source of your infertility and then create a treatment plan to best achieve a successful pregnancy. Embryo transfers are a great option for an intended parent who has fallopian tube damage or blockage, ovulation disorders, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, tubal ligation, and poor sperm motility or morphology. 

If you have a damaged or blocked fallopian tube, the embryo will have difficulty becoming fertilised and travel to the uterus. An irregular menstrual cycle will mean that fewer eggs are available to be fertilised. Endometriosis will affect uterine tissue implants and the function of the ovaries, the uterus, and fallopian tubes. Fibroids are benign tumours on the uterus wall. These benign tumours can interfere with the implantation of the embryo in the uterus. If you had your fallopian tubes cut off or surgically removed, embryo transfer can make it possible for you to conceive successfully. 


What Are the Different Types of Embryo Transfers?

There are different types of embryo transfers such as:

  • Fresh transfers - Once the egg cells have been retrieved and fertilised, the doctor will determine which embryo has the best chance for implantation in your uterus. 
  • Frozen transfers – Embryos from past IVF cycles can be stored and frozen for future use. Frozen embryo transfers are the most popular transfers since this gives the doctor a chance to do a genetic test before implanting the embryo into the uterus. 
  • Day 3 transfers – The embryos are named after the cells in the embryo, these cells are normally cleaving or dividing. The embryo itself will not grow in size. Not all embryos can survive until Day 5, that is why some doctors will transfer the embryo on Day 3 to give the embryo the best chance for implantation in the uterus. 
  • Day 5 transfers – Day 5 embryos are also called blastocysts. This embryo has developed into a sphere of 60 to 120 cells surrounded by a fluid-filled cavity. 
  • Single embryo transfer 
  • Multiple embryo transfer 


The Embryo Transfer Procedure

The procedure of an embryo transfer is very similar to that of a pap smear. It is a short procedure only lasting 15-30 minutes. The doctor conducting the procedure will insert a speculum into your vagina with ultrasound to ensure accuracy during the procedure and to ensure perfect implantation. Your doctor will then put a catheter through your cervix and into the uterus. From here the embryos will be passed through the catheter and into the uterus. Once the procedure is finished you will be asked to lie down for 1 hour. The entire procedure and rest time normally take 2-4 hours in total. 


What to Expect After an Embryo Transfer

Your doctor and clinic will always give you detailed instructions after each appointment to make you feel comfortable. Some doctors might recommend 24-hour bed rest, while other doctors might recommend low-impact movements to increase blood flow to the uterus. It is important that you avoid sexual intercourse, strenuous exercise, and baths. 


How Long Should I Wait Before Taking my Post-Transfer Pregnancy Test?

You might feel tempted to take a pregnancy test a few days after the transfer but try to abstain from that urge. Fertility clinics and doctors recommend that you only take a pregnancy test two weeks after your embryo transfer procedure. If you take a pregnancy test before two weeks, you might get a false-negative result. To get a more accurate result you can make a booking with your fertility clinic or doctor to do a blood test. 

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