What to Expect After Embryo Transfer

The final step of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a pregnancy test after an embryo transfer. With so much building up to this moment – especially after undergoing IVF treatment for many weeks, months, or years – it can be hard to be patient as you wait to find out your result.

How long does it take for an embryo to implant after embryo transfer?

About three days after the embryo transfer procedure, the developing embryo attaches to the uterine wall, which is primed to receive it.

Here’s a day-by-day timeline of what happens after a Day 5 embryo transfer:

  • Day 0: The embryo is transferred to the uterus.

  • Day 1: The embryo hatches out of the zona pellucida (its protective protein shell) and continues to rapidly grow and divide.

  • Day 2-4: The embryo’s trophectoderm cells adhere to and burrow into the uterine lining (endometrium), enabling the growth of the vascular structure that can support the embryo.

  • Day 5 - The cells that become the placenta and the cells that become the fetus continue to grow. The hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) enters the parent’s bloodstream.

Embryo Implantation Process

Positive signs after embryo transfer

You may experience light bleeding or spotting a few days (Day 5 embryo) to a week (Day 3 embryo) after embryo transfer when the embryo implants.

Other positive signs after embryo transfer include:

  • Mild cramping
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Increased need to pee

What can be confusing is that many signs of pregnancy are very similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). If you are taking progesterone or other medications to help with implantation, those medications can cause symptoms similar to those of successful implantation. You may also experience no symptoms at all! Because of this, it’s really important to wait for a pregnancy test to confirm pregnancy.

How early can I test for pregnancy after an IVF embryo transfer?

After embryo transfer, you are probably (understandably) anxious to know if it was successful! When you take the pregnancy test depends on what your fertility clinic recommends, and can be anywhere between 7-14 days after embryo transfer. Your clinic may conduct two hCG tests two days apart to monitor your hCG levels, since they will be looking for increasing levels of hCG in your blood.

It’s particularly important to wait for your clinic’s pregnancy test if you used an hCG trigger shot before a fresh embryo transfer. hCG is also the hormone the clinic is testing for to confirm pregnancy. Because it can take a while for the hormone from the trigger shot to leave your body, it can lead to a false positive pregnancy test.

The wait for the first pregnancy test after embryo transfer can be a very anxious time, and you may be looking for ways to maximize your chance of success. For a guide on what to do after embryo transfer and what to avoid, click here.

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