What to expect at your embryo transfer from an ND

What to Expect at Your Embryo Transfer from a Naturopath’s Perspective

4 min read
If you’re undergoing IVF or about to have an embryo transfer, it can be a nerve-wracking experience—and if this is your first one, you may not know what to expect. Here are some embryo transfer dos and don’ts as well as what to expect day-of and some of your FAQs answered, from the perspective of Dr. Sarah Zadek, naturopathic doctor.

Dos and don’ts when you’re in an embryo transfer cycle:

  • DO drink two litres of water per day.
  • DO get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
  • DO eat lots of vegetables, and especially those that support blood flow like beets and garlic.
  • DO exercise. Aim for 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. Don’t exceed 60 minutes per session or six hours per week. Light jogging, swimming, walking, yoga, dancing, non-contact sports and low-impact aerobics can be enjoyed.
  • DO keep stress managed. Listen to guided meditations or music, journal, exercise or call a friend.
  • DON’T engage in excessively strenuous activities (skip the long-distance runs, heavy lifting. and Cross Fit).
  • DON’T drink any alcohol.
  • DON’T use perfumes, colognes, fabric softeners and any other products that are heavily scented with fragrance (essential oils are okay). Artificial fragrances contain chemicals called phthalates that can interfere with your hormones.

What happens on the day-of an embryo transfer? 

Typically, fertility clinics will ask you to check in about 30 minutes before your scheduled transfer time. You’ll also be instructed to drink about one litre of water before the procedure to fill your bladder so your doctor can visualize the uterus with ultrasound. If you have a tiny bladder, it may not be necessary to drink the full liter of water—and if you overfill your bladder, you may be required to let a little bit out which isn’t easy.
The transfer procedure is relatively quick and easy compared to an egg retrieval. Your doctor will insert a catheter vaginally to reach the uterus. They’ll use ultrasound to guide the catheter and find a nice landing spot for your embryo. The embryo is left there, snug within the muscular and mucus-coated uterus. Once the embryo is nestled in your uterus, that’s it! Now it’s waiting time. You’ll be asked to return to your clinic in about 10 to 14 days for a blood pregnancy test.

Can the embryo fall out?

No. The uterus itself is a muscle and the endometrium (the inner lining) is a mucus membrane, meaning it’s soft and sticky. That embryo isn’t going anywhere, even if you’re walking or dancing.

Should I be on bed rest after a transfer?

No. Unless specifically instructed to go on bed rest by your fertility doctor, there is no evidence to recommend bed rest after an embryo transfer. One study even found that patients on bed rest were slightly less likely (23 percent) to have live birth compared to no recommendation of bed rest. Another study reported lower implantation rates in patients who were on bed rest post transfer. I usually recommend patients go for a light walk sometime in the day or evening after an embryo transfer, and then continue to exercise as mentioned above.

Is there anything additional you recommend for the day-of transfer? 

Pre- and post-transfer acupuncture is an excellent way to book-end the procedure. It helps promote relaxation, reduces anxiety, improves blood flow and can improve pregnancy rates in frozen embryo transfer cycles. Acupuncture treatments are done just before your check-in time, and right after your embryo transfer, and each session is about 45 minutes long. At our clinic we offer guided meditations and relaxing music to listen to during your sessions. We also keep our patients toasty warm with heated treatment tables and extra heat lamps to keep your uterus (pre-transfer) and feet (post-transfer) warm.
Adding in these acupuncture sessions are a nice way to make the day feel more therapeutic and less like a medical procedure. Check with your fertility clinic to see if they offer these services. Some clinics will even allow an outside naturopath or licensed acupuncturist to come in and do the treatments, but every clinic is different, so make sure to check ahead of time.

Will I notice anything after my embryo transfer?

Every person is different. This includes whether you notice any symptoms of implantation and early pregnancy. If you notice no symptoms at all, or it feels like nothing is happening, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean the transfer didn’t work, nor does it mean the transfer worked. The same is true if you notice symptoms. Some people report slight cramping or minor spotting—both are normal but do not occur for everyone, regardless of if the embryo successfully implanted.

Any other advice during the TWW?

Don’t Goggle your symptoms. At this point, things are out of your hands. Follow the above advice regarding sleep, nutrition, water intake, light exercise and stress management. I recommend all my patients practice excellent self-care over the two-week-wait (or until pregnancy test). Take care of yourself. Watch or listen to something that makes you laugh. Cuddle up with your partner, dog or cat. Get some fresh air. Be kind to yourself and be patient.