Embryo Transfer

Embryo transfer is a simple procedure that follows in vitro fertilization (IVF) and is often considered the simplest and final step of the in vitro fertilization process. The objective of embryo transfer is to facilitate conception following fertilization from the in vitro fertilization procedure.

How is the Embryo Transfer Procedure Done?

The patient returns to the clinic to have the embryos transferred. Anesthesia is often not necessary, although a sedative may be used. An ultrasound may be used to help guide the physician as he transfers the embryos. A predetermined number of embryos are loaded into a fine transfer catheter that passes through the vagina and cervix, into the uterus.

The embryos are deposited from the catheter into the uterus. Following this procedure, the patient usually remains in a recovery room resting on her back and is discharged 4-6 hours after the procedure. The couple will then wait and optimistically watch for early pregnancy symptoms.

When does the procedure occur?

Embryos are generally transferred to the woman’s uterus at the 2-8 cell stage. Embryos may be transferred anytime between day 1 through day 6 after the retrieval of the egg, although it is usually between days 2-4. Some clinics are now allowing the embryo to reach blastocysts stage before transferring, which occurs around day 5.

What medications may be given along with the procedure?

Progesterone is often the main medication that a woman will continue to take after the embryo transfer. Taking supplemental progesterone will not only help increase the chances of pregnancy, but progesterone is also vital to sustaining a pregnancy. Progesterone is often discontinued once a pregnancy has been confirmed and is producing adequate amounts of progesterone on its own.

What are the risks?

The risks are minimal, but include the loss of the embryos during transfer or implanting the embryos in the wrong place such as the fallopian tubes. Although some women experience mild cramping, the procedure is usually painless.

Are there any instructions following the procedure?

Once embryos are transferred, there is nothing a patient can do to influence the outcome of her cycle. Currently, there is no documented evidence as to whether bed rest or continuing normal activities following the procedure make a difference in the outcome.

Some physicians encourage the patients to rest for twenty-four hours. Others suggest returning to normal activities as soon as possible. Some patients choose to rest because they think that by doing so they are improving their chances. Additional rest also gives them an opportunity to think about the potential baby.

Other women elect to return to normal activities to help them avoid worrying about things that could go wrong. Together with counsel from the doctor, the state of your body and mind should help you decide your course of action.
Again, there is no documented evidence showing that physical activity has any impact on embryo implantation or conception. Conception is a natural event that depends primarily upon the genetic quality of the eggs.

How many embryos should be transferred?

The number of embryos that should be transferred during any single IVF cycle is subject to debate. Medical experts and writers seem to agree that transferring no more than four embryos per IVF cycle will yield optimal results.

Transferring more than four is believed to result in excessive numbers of multiple pregnancies leading to the increase of other complications. Transferring four embryos instead of only one or two increases the probability of pregnancy but with the risk that all four embryos could implant. After implantation, the next step is watching for the signs and symptoms of pregnancy

Want to Know More?

Compiled using information from the following sources:

1. Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART)


2. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association


3. Reproductive Facts.org