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What Not to Worry About Between Embryo Transfer and Pregnancy Test

CHR understands how stressful the wait time between embryo transfer day and the pregnancy test can be. In this video, Dr. Gleicher answers common questions and concerns from women during this time period.

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Hello, I’m Norbert Gleicher, MD, and I’m the Medical Director and Chief Scientist at the Center for Human Reproduction. I have talked many times about IVF on these videos and written many articles on the subject in our monthly newsletter, but here, as elsewhere, what very frequently is not discussed, is the time between embryo transfer and pregnancy test.

This is probably not very frequently discussed because there’s very little activity. Obviously during cycles, preparation and cycle stimulation, even between retrieval and transfer, there’s a lot to be done and therefore, there’s a lot of discussion going on, there are a lot of instructions given, there are a lot of explanations given. But then comes that quiet period of roughly 12 days between embryo transfer and first pregnancy test. And that’s a difficult time for our patients. And I want you to know that we fully understand that. Probably it is indeed the most difficult time of the whole cycle history.

It is very difficult to wait for a decision whether what has taken so much effort, so much time, and also so much money, in the end is rewarded with a positive pregnancy test or not. Again, we fully understand that and we wish we had a better way of doing it. Unfortunately, we don’t. Unfortunately, there are no other ways. There’s no way of shortening this time period as of now. We have no earlier ways of detecting whether implantation has occurred or not.

So, let me therefore address a little bit of what we hear during that time period. And what we hear are mostly fears. What we hear is, “Can I do something wrong during that time period that will make me guilty in not achieving pregnancy?” And the answer to that is a very clear no. There’s nothing you can do wrong during that time period that will negatively affect your pregnancy chances, except if you start taking medications, drugs, or do crazy things that I’m sure nobody watching this would ever think about.

Another very frequently asked question is, “How about my diet? Can I help implantation in any way?” There are so-called, “implantation foods” being advertised or talked about on the internet. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that also those implantation foods are really not what they are promised to be. There’s nothing you can eat that will enhance your implantation.

Yes, there have been recently some studies that have suggested that eating healthy, for example eating more vegetables, may result in better IVF outcomes. Eating more fish rather than meat the same, but honestly speaking, i’m a little skeptical about all of these reports because what we eat, what we drink, how we live our daily lives, is really not usually independent on single factors. In other words, people who eat more meat and less fish have other habits that are associated with their meat eating habits. And therefore, it is very very difficult to do studies that can really pinpoint whether certain foods will positively or negatively affect IVF outcomes.

A very good example for that was the story that years ago made huge headlines everywhere, when some investigators claimed (and falsely claimed as it’s since has been shown many many times over) that IVF is associated with an increased risk for birth defects. As it turned out, the risk that those investigators found in association with birth defects was not between IVF and birth defects, it was actually between infertility and birth defects. Women who had infertility problems have more birth defects. Obviously these women also undergo lots of IVF cycles, and therefore, there is a secondary association, but it is not the causal association.

The same thing applies with food and IVF outcomes. So in general, be very careful in believing what you read and we can only reemphasize when it comes to food during IVF treatments, that balance is always the best result. Balanced diets, balanced living styles, not doing anything to the extreme, eat healthy food, stay away from excessive alcohol and drugs, and you will be in good position to conceive.

So, those 12 days are a very very long period. Should you stay in bed? Should you decrease your activity? Once again, we don’t think so. I’m old enough to remember in the very early days of IVF, when we placed patients after embryo transfer for up to eight hours into a Trendelenburg position (meaning with the head down). They weren’t allowed to get up to the bathroom and we thought it would make a difference. It took us a good two years to complete the studies that showed that neither the Trendelenburg, nor the prolonged bed rest, did have any effects whatsoever on IVF outcomes. And this is why today we allow patients to get up after the transfer– after the 20 minutes or so. They spend still a few more short minutes in our recovery room, and then you can go home. We obviously wanted to take it easy, especially on the day of your embryo transfer, but then you can return slowly to normal activities.

The one thing that we want to be very very clear about is, we do not want you to take any medications during that time period or during any time period while you’re in an IVF cycle that isn’t cleared by your doctors (meaning by your doctors who are responsible for your IVF cycles). We do not want you to take any medications behind our back because they can indeed and be harmful.

So with this a short explanation about the so called transfer to pregnancy diagnosis period, I hope that we have at least a little bit impacted the stress that you undoubtedly may feel in that time period. I very much wish I could do more during that time period. The only other thing I can say is that we here at CHR are always available to answer your questions should any additional questions come up during that time period. Thank you for listening.