How do you know that an IVF embryo transfer worked? Here are the tools I used to decipher early pregnancy symptoms.
Given that it costs approximately $30,000 to make an embryo and $4,500 to transfer one, the pressure for it to succeed is overwhelming. Immediately after my first embryo transfer, I became consumed with Googling “what are the signs of early pregnancy success after an embryo transfer” to try and decipher if things were headed in the right direction. Unfortunately what I found was disappointing and geared towards non-IVF patients, offering gems like: “An early pregnancy symptom is missing your period.”
Try telling a woman who just spent thousands of dollars and emotional time on one procedure to wait 15 days for a missed period. It simply does not suffice. So what did get me through this difficult time and help decipher very early pregnancy symptoms after embryo transfer? Read below to find out!
Early Pregnancy Signs & Symptoms
According to research conducted by the American Pregnancy Association, the most commonly reported first signs of pregnancy are the following:
- Missed Period
- Tender Breasts
- Implantation Bleeding
While this list might satiate the average person who is Googling pregnancy signs after sexual intercourse, it simply can’t pass the incessantly inquiring mind of an IVF patient who has just undergone a scheduled embryo transfer and is now tapping her toe, waiting for answers.
Here’s why these symptoms simply don’t cut it:
- Missed Period – If you wait for this event to happen (or not happen) you might as well wait for your official pregnancy test at the clinic. This is a reliable pregnancy symptom, it just doesn’t help an IVF patient decipher any early pregnancy symptoms or signs of success.
- Nausea – Feeling queasy is a very common pregnancy symptom due to high levels of the hCG pregnancy hormone. However, nausea won’t happen directly after an embryo transfer because the hCG hormone is simply not high enough in your system.
- Tender Breasts – Have you ever heard of Progesterone? Google its symptoms and you’ll find that “tender breasts” are its #1 side effect. Since most IVF patients take high levels of progesterone leading up to and after their embryo transfers, this is not a reliable pregnancy symptom.
- Fatigue – The stress and anxiety of an embryo transfer + weeks of early morning IVF monitoring leading up to the transfer + side effects of Progesterone drugs = total and utter exhaustion. This is not a reliable pregnancy symptom for an IVF patient.
- Implantation Bleeding – This could be a legitimate early pregnancy symptom, but it doesn’t happen to everyone and you’ll have to wait until at least three to four days post transfer to gauge if it’s happening to you. Given that only 3% of the people in this study reported this as an early sign, it’s not a very reliable pregnancy symptom for an IVF patient.
The American Pregnancy Association also offers this video of the most commonly reported first signs of pregnancy, but it’s not anymore helpful to an IVF patient than the above.
Early Pregnancy Signs & Symptoms – Helpful Tools for IVF Patients
After undergoing a total of five embryo transfers, I can accurately report that none of the above symptoms helped me get through this difficult time. So what did help? Here’s the tools I used to help decipher any early pregnancy symptoms after an IVF embryo transfer.
- Comparing Symptoms in Online Forums – Online forums like The Two Week Wait are a fantastic resource to compare the symptoms you might be feeling post embryo transfer with others. Want even more help? Check out their “BFP Stories” to see if any of your symptoms match the lucky ones who fell pregnant!
- Comparing Symptoms from Past Transfers – I’ve kept a running master document with all of my IVF notes, questions, research, and drug instructions. I also have a special tab that documents my symptoms from each one of my embryo transfers. It felt a bit silly at first, particularly since the first few always ended in big fat negatives. However, these entries are so valuable to me now and I pore over them with each new transfer to see if I can spot any reoccurring trends.
- Consulting the Implantation Timeline Post Embryo Transfer* – This handy charts offers a day-by-day breakdown of what happens post embryo transfer.
4. Reading IVF Success Stories Online – IVF success stories are the lifejackets that keep us afloat during the most difficult times. From the anecdotal (wearing warm socks post transfer) to the scientific (administering certain medications over others), each story of IVF success brings us new-found learnings that can help us spot if we’re on the right track to success during the tedious two-week wait post embryo transfer. The internet is chalk full of success stories, but check out fertility forums like FertileThoughts for more!
5. Luteal Blood Test Results – If you’re doing a medicated transfer, a luteal blood test is done halfway through the two-week wait to confirm that your progesterone levels are high enough. Although they aren’t testing for the pregnancy hormone of hCG, they can usually tell if things are looking “pregnant-ish” if your hormone levels have spiked more than usual. Whenever my luteal blood test results came back with spiked hormones, I found out I was pregnant a few days later.
6. Using Early Detection Pregnancy Tests – The most sensitive pregnancy test on the market is First Response Early Results (FRER) test which can detect hCG at concentrations as low as 6.5 mIU/ml (thousandths of an International Unit per milliliter) in your urine. As this study by Consumer Reports indicates: “That’s almost sensitive enough to detect any pregnancy soon after implantation.” However, please understand all the pros and cons of early pregnancy testing before you go this route!
Deciphering early pregnancy symptoms after an embryo transfer can be difficult and tedious, especially when reading evergreen pregnancy content that is not geared towards IVF patients. But by tapping into the IVF community, you can find support and resources to help you get through this difficult time.