While embryo transfer marks an exciting time for hopeful families, it can also be a stressful and confusing process.
The process leading up to embryo transfer is rarely easy for anyone. The stress of battling the difficulties associated with infertility, coupled with multiple medical procedures can be overwhelming. Knowing how to best care for your body and your well-being can aid in creating a smoother transition to the final processes for IVF and your future child.
What is Embryo Transfer?
Embryo transfer is one part of the multi-step process that allows for a child to be created outside of the human body. This is the final step before a patient can become officially pregnant using the IVF (in vitro fertilization) process.
When genetic materials (eggs and sperm) are combined, they create an embryo. Then, the embryo is implanted into a viable uterus. Once the embryo attaches to the uterine wall, a pregnancy can result. The procedure itself is simple and usually only takes about 5 minutes to complete. While this seems pretty straight forward, the whole process can take quite a while. One cycle of IVF takes roughly 4 to 6 weeks.
Pre-embryonic Transfer Treatments
Treatments leading up to embryo transfer can pose the most stress for expectant mothers. While resultant pregnancy is largely outside of the control of both doctors and parents, there are steps and procedures that can improve success rates.
Ensuring that both the uterus being implanted and the genetic material being used are in good health is the most important indicator of success. Undergoing early standard diagnostic testing to get a look at your overall health and the health of your uterus or eggs can give your doctor a better idea of how well you will respond to any of the necessary treatments. Should any problems arise, there are many treatments and procedures to circumvent these problems. Use of donor materials, or surrogacy, might prove a better option.
To aid in the production and release of eggs, patients can undergo hormonal treatments prior to egg retrieval. These treatments can help encourage a woman’s ovaries to release more eggs. This gives physicians the chance to select the best possible materials. Once eggs have been selected and retrieved, they can then be combined with sperm to create an embryo.
The necessary and beneficial hormonal treatments can prove to be uncomfortable for many women. Acne, headaches, mood swings and hot flashes are not uncommon during this time. Following the egg retrieval procedure, many women report cramping and pain for a few hours. It’s important to try and find ways to productively deal with the physical and mental stress that these treatments can cause. Allowing yourself moments of relaxation in a stress-free environment is just as important to your health as it is to the health of your future baby.
Be mindful of your diet and try and schedule time for low impact exercise. Going for a walk, or doing some yoga, can help you unwind.
Post-embryonic Transfer Care
Once a healthy embryo has carefully matured and selected, doctors then perform the embryo transfer. This is where they introduce the selected embryo into a woman’s uterus. This is a simple procedure that involves inserting a catheter into the vagina and placing the embryo into the most favorable position in the womb.
Waiting to find out whether or not the embryo has successfully attached to the uterine wall, or implanted, can be an exciting and anxious time. The dreaded “two week wait” that everyone talks about can be nerve-racking. Patients must wait for two weeks before doctors can adequately assess you for IVF success and pregnancy.
For a long time, advice for patients was to a strict regimen of bed rest. If patients weren’t able to rest as much as they believed they should, they felt guilty and liable should the pregnancy not take. However, this is simply not true. Many different factors determine whether or not an embryo implants into the uterus. Any one thing you do (or don’t do) is unlikely to affect the success of the procedure. In fact, being hyper-aware of anything you do during your day is bound to simply cause stress and hinder your overall experience.
What Follows Embryo Transfer
Directly following embryo transfer, many women put themselves through rigorous and strict regimens. Don’t. At this point in the process, positivity and good self-care are the ways you can best help. Check that your diet is well balanced with lots of veggies, protein, fiber, and nutrients, but don’t eat any differently than you would when nourishing a pregnancy. Skip the long hot baths, saunas, and hot tubs, as extreme temperatures can mess with your internal temperature.
Keeping yourself in good repair, both mentally and physically, is an important part of your journey. Lean on the support systems of your family, friends, and fertility clinic. Find ways to focus on enjoying the moment you are in, instead of dreading what may come next. Despite the difficulties you have already faced, and the ones you may still face, it’s important to remember that in the end this is a happy story. Show yourself the same love and compassion that you will inevitably show to your future child.
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