After undergoing IVF embryo transfer, it’s natural to worry about what you can and cannot do. You may be concerned about how to protect your embryo from harm or dislodging. But rest assured, the transfer process is handled with utmost care and preparation to ensure the best chance of a successful pregnancy.
In vitro fertilisation involves developing embryos in a Petri dish for three to five days, with the healthiest embryos chosen for transfer. The transfer itself is a simple procedure with little discomfort, as a thin catheter is threaded through the cervix under ultrasound guidance for precise placement in the uterine cavity. Once the embryo(s) are placed, they have to implant into the endometrial lining on their own over the next few days with the goal of developing into a successful pregnancy.
The uterus is a muscular organ that contracts and stays tight in its natural state. When a thick and sticky endometrial lining is created by doctors before the embryo transfer, there is no empty space for the embryo to move freely or dislodge. When an embryo is transferred into the uterus, it must implant into the endometrial lining for a successful pregnancy to occur. The endometrial lining is composed of specialized cells, blood vessels, and glands that are crucial for implantation. Implantation occurs when the blastocyst, a ball of cells that will eventually develop into the foetus, hatches from its protective layer and begins to invade the endometrial lining.
The blastocyst produces enzymes that allow it to burrow into the endometrial tissue and establish a connection with the maternal blood supply. Endometrial fronds, also known as villi, are finger-like projections that extend into the cavity of the uterus. These fronds are covered in specialized cells called trophoblasts, which interact with the embryo during implantation. The trophoblasts release proteins that signal to the maternal cells to create a receptive environment for the embryo. As the embryo invades the endometrial lining, the trophoblasts form specialized structures called syncytiotrophoblasts. These structures are responsible for maintaining the connection between the embryo and the maternal blood supply, allowing the developing foetus to receive nutrients and oxygen.
In summary, the embryo clings to endometrial fronds through a complex series of interactions between specialized cells in the embryo and the endometrial lining. The trophoblasts release signals that prepare the maternal environment for implantation, and specialised structures formed during implantation maintain the connection between the embryo and maternal blood supply. Once the embryo is placed between the uterine walls, it becomes embedded deep within the lining, creating a secure environment for it to grow.
It’s similar to placing a poppy seed in the crease of your elbow and folding your arm shut tightly using your muscle. Even if you wiggle your arm vigorously, the poppy seed won’t come out. The same principle applies to an implanted embryo inside a flexed uterus.
Contrary to popular belief, immediate bed rest after the transfer is unnecessary. Studies have shown that resuming normal activities, including going to the bathroom, is better for pregnancy rates. During the first 24 hours after the transfer, it’s essential to stay home and avoid vigorous activities like heavy lifting or exercise. The goal is to keep the embryos in the uterine cavity and prevent them from getting pushed into the Fallopian tube, which could result in an ectopic or tubal pregnancy. Common sense is key. You can use stairs but avoid running up and down them. If you feel you don’t have to do something, don’t do it. Excessive heat should be avoided, including hot baths or hot tubs, as embryos do not like heat. Showers are okay because they won’t elevate your body temperature.
During the “two-week wait” for the pregnancy test, try to relax and stay positive. It’s not your fault if an embryo does not implant, but you don’t want to give yourself any possible reasons for feeling guilty or second-guessing your activity level if the IVF procedure doesn’t work out this time.
Remember to take care of yourself during this time and stay positive during the wait for the pregnancy test.