IVF Embryo Transfer

During the embryo transfer phase of IVF, embryos are carefully placed into the uterus through the cervix using a thin catheter. This procedure, whether with fresh or frozen embryos, is typically quick and minimally invasive. The timing of the transfer varies depending on the individual's treatment plan and cycle, with frozen embryo transfers often allowing for more flexibility in timing.

Preparing for Embryo Transfer

On the day of the embryo transfer, we prioritize our patients’ comfort and relaxation to ensure the best possible experience. Patients are encouraged to bring soothing music, a comfy pillow, and warm socks to promote relaxation during the procedure.

It’s important to refrain from consuming coffee or soft drinks before the transfer to optimize conditions for embryo implantation. Additionally, notifying us of any cold, cough, or allergies is essential, as patients may require a cough suppressant. We also ask that patients arrive at the clinic with a partially full bladder, which enables us to obtain clearer images of the uterus during the abdominal ultrasound.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for further guidance.

Verifying Embryos

Directly before the embryo transfer, the embryologist will confirm the patient's identity. This is one of several measures we take to ensure the safety of our patients’ embryos.

Embryo Transfer and Recovery

The embryo transfer is done without anesthesia and feels similar to a Pap smear. The entire process takes about 15 minutes, with the transfer itself taking just 30 seconds.

A speculum is inserted in the vagina, and the cervix is washed and cleansed. The embryos are loaded into a soft catheter and passed through the cervix and into the uterus. The patient may feel a slight twinge when the catheter passes through the cervix, but many patients feel little or no sensation at all during the procedure.

Because the doctor uses an abdominal ultrasound to guide the embryo transfer, patients can watch the transfer take place on the screen. They are also given a picture of the transferred embryos.

Post Embryo Transfer Care

After completing the embryo transfer, the patient's nurse will gently position them so their legs are together and slightly elevated. This position is recommended for a short period of time following transfer. It is important during this time that the patient remains relatively relaxed and comfortable. Usually, they will remain at rest for 15 to 30 minutes after the transfer.

To ease the post-transfer recovery process, it’s essential that patients follow the following protocols:

  • Avoid any vigorous activity like aerobics or running. After 8 hours, they may gently increase their activity. The ovaries will still be full of fluid from the effects of the stimulation, so there may be some bloating or pelvic discomfort at this time. It is okay to take stairs slowly and walk short distances, less than a half mile.
  • Avoid vaginal creams, lubricants, or spermicides.
  • Take showers instead of tub baths, and don't swim.
  • Avoid penetrative sexual activity or orgasm for one week.
  • Drink plenty of clear fluids to stay well-hydrated.

It's important to recognize that at this stage, the likelihood of successful embryo implantation and pregnancy is primarily determined by the health of the embryo rather than your activities.

Frozen Embryo Transfer

Frozen embryo transfer (FET) is a technique used in IVF where embryos are cryopreserved (frozen) so they can be thawed and transferred into the uterus at a later time. FET offers patients a range of benefits, including:

  • Flexibility in embryo transfer timing
  • Potentially higher chances of success
  • The ability to do preimplantation genetic testing (PGT)
  • The opportunity to have multiple embryo transfer attempts from a single IVF cycle
  • The ability to avoid undergoing repeated ovarian stimulation

Frozen embryos are cryopreserved through a flash-freezing method called vitrification, a process that protects the embryos from damage during freezing and thawing.

Frozen Embryo Transfer with Genetic Testing

PGT involves biopsying a tiny sample of cells from the outer layer of a blastocyst embryo. The cells are then tested for chromosomal abnormalities and/or genetic disorders, depending on what’s needed. After the PGT biopsy, all embryos are frozen while awaiting the test results. Once high-quality embryos are identified, they can be thawed and transferred to the uterus, one embryo at a time. These embryos can also be kept in cryopreservation storage for many years.

Elective Single Embryo Transfer (eSET)

At Pacific Fertility Center, our doctors and staff prioritize the safety of our patients while also striving for high chances of IVF success. One of the ways we do this is through elective single embryo transfer (eSET), which offers an effective and safe way to build families, one healthy baby at a time. At PFC we elect to transfer one embryo in over 90% of patients.

In short, eSET involves identifying an embryo with a high chance of successful pregnancy and transferring that single embryo to the uterus. If there are multiple healthy embryos, we freeze them for future use.

The eSET program at PFC produces very high pregnancy rates. Using embryos conservatively in this way is a big part of PFC's strategy to create healthier singleton pregnancies.

  • The recent past has seen an explosion of new fertility technologies – many tested or introduced very early by PFC. Used in combination, advances like these have made it possible to identify and transfer or store embryos with the greatest potential for pregnancy:

    • Extended embryo culture to day 5 allows development to a more advanced stage, where it is possible to select embryos of the highest quality.
    • Time-lapse photography (Early Embryo Viability Assessment, Eeva™) identifies embryos with normal cell division without removing them from their controlled incubation environment.
    • Preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) reliably and safely identifies embryos with normal chromosome counts.
    • Vitrification allows freezing and storage of viable embryos. One embryo at a time can be warmed for future transfer of single embryos.
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