How to cope with the wait after an embryo transfer

Published: 7 June 2021|Last updated: 7 June 2021|Techniques and treatments.|

The embryo transfer is one of the most special moments in the assisted reproduction process: it is the moment when the embryos are inserted into the woman’s uterus.

The hours, days and weeks that follow, known as the “two-week wait”, are exciting and, at the same time, emotionally very intense due to the desire to know the result of the pregnancy test. That’s why we want to give you a number of tips so that this period doesn’t seem like an eternity and instead you can enjoy it.

It is important to carry on with your usual lifestyle after the embryo transfer.

After an embryo transfer, it is completely normal to have doubts about what activities we can and cannot do on a day-to-day basis. However, there is no scientific evidence that rest at this time increases the treatment success rate.

For this reason, specialists always recommend women to continue with their usual lifestyle and they even agree that this helps to alleviate the stress of waiting during this period. Also, experts agree that once the embryos have been transferred, the process follows the natural course of any pregnancy: women do not confirm their pregnancy until the following month and, during this time, the embryo develops independently of the mother’s own actions.

Nevertheless, bearing in mind that pregnancies are often risky or difficult to achieve, there are a series of guidelines that should be taken into account. They are simply a set of simple healthy lifestyle tips that always contribute to good health: avoid stress, intense sport and carrying too much weight; eat healthily and avoid foods and drinks that are not recommended during pregnancy (alcohol, coffee, raw fish, and so on); don’t smoke; and follow any instructions regarding sexual intercourse specified by the doctor.

What are the most common physical symptoms?

As we have already mentioned, the waiting period between a transfer and the day on which the pregnancy test can be conducted is known, informally, as “the two-week wait” and it is usually one of the most emotionally complicated in the whole process. It is a two-week period in which women are very aware of possible changes in their bodies, but specialists point out that not everything that happens has a meaning.

Marta Trullenque, a doctor specialising in assisted reproduction at Eugin, highlights that it is important to be aware that “there is no specific symptom of anything”, aside from “heavy and continuous bleeding which can clearly be identified as a period and that will signal that pregnancy has not been achieved”, she explains.

Even so, there may be some physical signs that women may feel uneasy about, but these are usually symptoms related to the process itself:

  • Bleeding: light spotting – always less than a period – in the days following the embryo transfer is normal and usually disappears in two or three days. They are generally due to cervical canalisation. There is no need to be alarmed about them: they are completely normal.
  • Dizziness, sharp muscular pain, cramps or pain in the abdominal and lumbar region: these types of discomfort can also be common after embryo transfer. Most of them are due to the ovarian stimulation that the woman has undergone, especially in cases of in vitro fertilisation with the woman’s own eggs. They can also appear as a result of the follicular puncture itself or due to the preparation for menstruation. In the case of egg recipients, dizziness may be due to the hormone treatment. In addition, the anxiety generated during these days of waiting may also explain the feeling of dizziness.
  • Swelling and hardening of the breast: this is a common symptom following the administration of hormones prior to embryo transfer, specifically oestrogen and progesterone, both of which can cause fluid retention and a feeling of swelling and heaviness. “When faced with this type of pain and discomfort, we can resort to painkillers such as Paracetamol, which are safe and will help us to feel better,” says Dr Trullenque.

Only in the event of very heavy bleeding, the first signs of fever (above 38 degrees Celsius) or persistent pain that is not relieved by painkillers is it advisable to consult a doctor.

Some women also feel uneasy if they don’t feel anything different in their body during the two-week waiting period. In this case, having no symptoms is neither a good nor a bad sign, so it is best not to jump to conclusions and instead wait for a pregnancy test.

How do I deal with the emotional side of the transfer?

As well as the physical symptoms, the wait after an embryo transfer is very emotionally charged. “It really is a very emotionally intense 14 days of waiting,” explains Dr. Trullenque. “We usually advise our patients to keep their minds busy, to lead a completely normal life and to avoid heavy physical exertion,” she adds. “Sometimes it is useful to remember that, if the pregnancy was achieved naturally, the woman would not have changed her lifestyle until the time she knew she was pregnant.

To alleviate this feeling, “the important thing is to find activities that take our minds off things and make us feel good,” says Dr. Trullenque. And, in cases of intense unease, natural products such as valerian or Bach Flower remedies can be used to provide greater peace of mind. “The ideal scenario would be to lead a normal life, keeping energised and feeling naturally optimistic about the days that come after the transfer,” says the doctor.

It is important to try to be as calm as possible, and each woman knows best what works for her. Of course, it is essential to feel supported, whether it is by your partner, friends or family. On the other hand, and in order to relieve stress, it is advisable to do the usual physical activities from the moment the treatment starts, to do things that make us feel good and that are relaxing.

Tips for those days

To sum up, here are some ideas to help you cope with and enjoy those days of waiting:

  1. Live a normal life: this is rule number one.
  2. Gentle physical exercise can help relieve stress.
  3. Keep your mind busy by doing activities that you enjoy.
  4. Seek support from your partner, family or friends so you can share the period of waiting.
  5. Eat well.
  6. Go for a walk to unwind, clear your mind and breathe in the fresh air.
  7. Work, unless there is a medical contraindication.
  8. Relieve stress using the method that works best for you.
  9. Keep physically active and avoid staying in bed too long or on the sofa.

Although it may seem like an eternity, the days of waiting are better spent following the tips we have suggested throughout this post. And one more thing. Many women are tempted to take a pregnancy test before the date set by the doctor. However, specialists advise you to wait until the scheduled date because if you take the test too early, it could be negative. In addition, it is essential to follow the hormone treatment until this date, as it helps to achieve pregnancy and, during the first weeks of the pregnancy, to avoid the risk of miscarriage.

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