One of the essential parts of the in vitro fertilization process is transferring the fertilized embryo to the recipient’s uterus. It helps to know what to expect, along with some of the risks and precautions to keep in mind. Here is some information on how the process works and for whom embryo transfers are an option.
What Is an Embryo Transfer?
The final step in the IVF process is known as embryo transfer. A woman undergoing IVF takes special fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries to release healthy eggs. When the eggs are ready for transfer, they are removed from her ovaries and fertilized in a lab. These fertilized eggs multiply, and then they are transferred back into the woman’s uterus or, in the case of egg donation, into the recipient’s uterus. The embryo must then attach itself to the uterine wall for pregnancy to begin.
Who Needs Embryo Transfer?
IVF and embryo transfer are useful in many cases where, for one reason or another, natural fertilization is not an option. For example, a woman may not ovulate regularly, making fewer eggs available for fertilization and therefore having a lower chance of this occurring. Or, her fallopian tubes may be damaged or scarred, making it difficult for fertilized eggs to reach the uterus. Endometriosis is another condition characterized by scar tissue growing outside of the uterus; it can have negative effects on how well the reproductive system functions. Genetic disorders or impaired sperm production or mobility can also prevent pregnancy from occurring naturally.
What to Expect
A woman receiving an embryo transfer can expect an experience similar to getting a pap smear. Using a speculum to hold the vaginal walls open and ultrasound for accuracy, the doctor will insert a catheter through the cervix and into the uterus. The embryo(s) are then passed into the uterus through this tube. The process is typically pain-free, is short and does not require any downtime afterward. You may experience some slight cramping or vaginal discharge after the procedure. You’ll follow up with the doctor two weeks later to see whether the embryo has implanted successfully.
Risks and Precautions
Embryo transfer is quite safe and the risks are minimal. The risks that do exist are related mostly to the hormonal stimulation, which can increase the risk of developing a blood clot. Once a successful pregnancy is established, the risk of miscarriage is about the same as in natural conception. With IVF, you do have a higher risk of multiple pregnancies if more than one embryo is transferred. Overall, embryo transfer is a safe, effective method for achieving the pregnancy you want.