What to look for after your embryo transfer, and when to call your doctor
Many of our patients ask what signs of successful implantation they should look for after their embryo transfer. We completely understand why – the embryo transfer is a huge, emotional culmination of months of preparation and procedures. Naturally, patients would like a checklist of signs to prove the transfer was a success and the embryo has implanted.
However, the truth is there is no such thing as a definitive sign of implantation. That’s the long and short of it. The only way to know for sure if you are pregnant is by waiting to take the official pregnancy test when your doctor recommends (typically around two weeks after the transfer). We know this wait can feel like eternity, especially with Dr. Google’s lists of magic signs that “guarantee pregnancy.” But while no one can guarantee you signs of successful implantation, we can offer some tips on what is completely normal to expect, and ways to help make it through the two-week wait.
A Successful Implantation Might Have Many Signs and Symptoms – or None at All
There are a wide range of completely normal bodily responses to an embryo transfer. Some pregnant people have light spotting, mood swings, breast tenderness, or cramps. Some people don’t feel any different at all, but still receive a positive pregnancy test. You may experience some, all, or none of these symptoms, whether or not your transfer was a success. None of these signs, on their own or together, are definitive signs of a successful implantation – or signs of an unsuccessful one. In fact, many of these signs, such as bloating, tenderness, and spotting, are commonly associated with the hormonal medications used before and after the embryo transfer.
When Should You Call the Doctor?
It can be tempting to call your fertility team with every new symptom during the two-week wait – or if you don’t experience any symptoms at all. In most cases, because there are no definitive signs of successful implantation, the answer will be to wait until the scheduled pregnancy test. One thing that can help reduce anxiety is to discuss what to expect with your team in advance. Talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns you have, when they recommend contacting them, and what the best way is to communicate with your team.
In general, complications from embryo transfers are rare. Typically, any side effects from the procedure are minor and go away on their own fairly quickly. However, contact your doctor right away if you experience serious symptoms, such as:
- Heavy bleeding
- Pain that gets worse or does not go away
- Nausea or vomiting
The One True Sign Of Successful Implantation: the 2-Week Pregnancy Test
The pregnancy blood test in your doctor’s office is the one true sign of whether the implantation was successful or not. But waiting two weeks after the embryo transfer without knowing the results can feel endless. As challenging as it can be, waiting to take the test is really a gift to yourself. Taking at-home tests beforehand can give inaccurate results, making the emotional roller coaster worse.
Instead, we feel the two-week wait is an opportunity to practice your favorite self-care and distraction techniques. It’s a great time to learn a new skill, read a book, binge watch your favorite TV show, or catch up with a supportive friend. Mindfulness techniques like meditation or journaling can help to stay present and grounded as well.
Most importantly, try to give yourself grace during this time. You have worked so hard and gotten so far in your fertility journey, and it’s natural to feel all sorts of emotions during this time. Surround yourself with the people you love, who love you. And whether you’re looking for resources or just a shoulder to lean on, we’re here for you, too.
For more information on post-embryo transfer tips, check our Dr. Lora Shahine’s video here.