My First Embryo Transfer as Someone with Unexplained Infertility

My First Embryo Transfer as Someone with Unexplained Infertility

5 min read

Bird&Be’s Shannon Gallagher answers questions about her first embryo transfer, including how she prepared. “My clinic laid it all out, but actually experiencing it is another thing.”  

Name: Shannon Gallagher
Role: Co-founder at Bird&Be
TTC since: 2021
Diagnosis: Unexplained infertility
Bird&Be product: The Powers for Females with CoQ10 Boost until transfer,  The Essentials for Females at transfer
History: First egg retrieval resulted in zero embryos, a second (a year later following lifestyle changes and starting Bird&Be supplements) resulted in three euploid embryos. First embryo transfer completed in January, 2023.
Best piece of advice: One step at a time was very literally how I took this whole process. I really try to live by it. 

How did you prepare for your embryo transfer?

My focus in the weeks leading up to my first transfer was to try and mentally prepare for the next stage, whatever the outcome might be, and to try and enjoy the experience as much as I could. That involved incorporating mindfulness (trying to live in the present moment), finding hobbies that could keep me busy (puzzles, reading, board games), and building good routines. Okay, I may have Type-A-ed everything into a giant habit tracker, but I tried to be somewhat chill about it.  
I included some habits that have solid evidence: physical movement (walking, stretching, yoga), mindfulness, taking my prenatal vitamins (Bird&Be The Essentials for Females, with the Calcium-Magnesium Boost), reduced alcohol, limited caffeine and lots of good sleep.
I also included some habits that have less evidence but certainly don’t hurt—shout out to Danielle Wade who actually shared a lot of these with me! Drinking raspberry leaf tea, pomegranate or beet juice and eating brazil nuts. I also added some habits that were good for my mental health: reducing screen time, learning a new language, laughing, crafting or playing regularly and flossing (hah).
Was I perfect? Absolutely not, but I felt good about what I did, and I think it helped get me into a good headspace going into the embryo transfer.

What did you do the night before and the morning of your embryo transfer?

My spouse and I travelled to Toronto, Ontario the day before the transfer (we live in Ottawa). That evening we stayed in our hotel room, watched trashy TV, ordered room service and I enjoyed my last Old Fashioned for some time (fingers crossed). The next morning, I slept in, ate a healthy breakfast, drank decaf, grabbed a few litres of water and headed to the clinic for pre-transfer acupuncture.

Does Acupuncture Help on Embryo Transfer Day?   

How were you feeling before the transfer?

Mostly relaxed, a bit nervous in anticipation of the outcome and a bit uncertain about what the process would be the day of. My clinic laid it all out, but actually experiencing it is another thing. I heard from many friends that in general, they found the embryo transfer to be anti-climactic, so I didn’t have a lot of expectations.

What happened when you arrived at the clinic?

Well, the first thing that happened is that I had to put medical booties over my boots, but they didn’t fit. Turns out I was trying to put on the wrong ones. Once that was sorted, I waited, drank a lot of water and eventually was led into a very average looking (and cold!) room, where I put on the robe and prepped for acupuncture. It turns out that room was where everything went down, but that wasn’t clear to me from the start. 
First embryo transfer ultrasound

What were you feeling directly before your transfer?

Mostly I was freezing and trying not to pee myself, otherwise I felt good partially thanks to the relaxing drugs my clinic provides.

What were you feeling during your embryo transfer?

Physically, I really felt nothing, which is always nice. Emotionally, I was excited that my spouse was able to be there with me and that the medical team felt positive about how the transfer went. I tried to enjoy the moment but honestly, I was mostly thinking about next steps. 

Were you given any indication of the success of the transfer?

Yes, actually, my doctor said something like, “that was the perfect transfer,” which sounds great to hear of course—though I’m not sure I fully appreciated it at the time. My doctor shared that he expected there to be an 80 percent chance of success! (I clarified whether that estimate was for implantation, clinical pregnancy or live birth and was shocked when he said it was for live birth.) I was surprised since I was expecting something more like fifty-fifty, but thankfully my spouse actually absorbed that information and kept my skeptical side in check. 
First embryo transfer fries

What instructions were you given for post-embryo-transfer care?

My clinic recommended avoiding alcohol, smoking, caffeine, strenuous exercises, saunas and hot tubs. Most importantly, I was instructed to keep on schedule with my meds.

How were you feeling post transfer?

Immediately post transfer I was entirely focused on my very full bladder. My doctor has you stay in the room, lying down for 20 minutes. (I think that this varies between doctors but it turns out that mine wants his patients to use a bedpan rather than get up and go to the washroom so that was an experience.) Later that day, and the next, I felt good. I read that laughter can help increase the chance of implantation so I tried to watch as much funny TV as I could, went for dinner with friends and relaxed. The caffeine withdrawal headache hit me like a ton of bricks two days post transfer so if there’s one thing I’d change it would be cutting out caffeine entirely, well in advance of the transfer. 

What Is a Positive Beta-hCG Test After Embryo Transfer? 

first embryo transfer positive pregnancy test

What follow-ups happened post-transfer?

The first follow-up I had was nine days post transfer for my first beta-hCG test. However, I did some acupuncture in between that time. If the first test comes back positive, they look for your HCG to double every 48 hours or so—mine did but the second test would have fallen on a weekend so I had to skip to the third beta and wait five days in between tests (which felt like an eternity)! At this point the clinic transferred me to their early pregnancy team, where you are scheduled for ultrasounds for week seven, eight and nine, typically. After week 10 they graduate you from the clinic and over to your family physician or an OB.