Frozen Embryo Transfer Takes Time

Frozen embryo transfer (FET) is a popular option during in vitro fertilization (IVF). Women or couples who want to delay pregnancy and some LGBTQ+ couples commonly use FET. More importantly, frozen embryos are a convenient option for couples who have had a previously failed IVF cycle. The process may sound straightforward, but frozen embryo transfer can take 6-8 weeks. Several moving parts dictate success. Understanding what happens at each stage helps patients to be more at ease.

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Get ready for FET

Most of the time, IVF involves preparing the uterus for the embryo. The fertility clinic will perform a range of physical and blood tests to rule out specific conditions. From day 3, the medical team prescribes medication, usually hormonal birth control, to regulate the woman’s cycle. Women may take this medication for 3-4 weeks. At this point, the doctor will request additional testing, which can take a few days. With the cycle under control, estrogen medication, via injections, starts 1-3 days after the woman’s period.

Time to thaw

Estrogen injections last for 2 weeks. During the 2 weeks, the embryologist prepares the frozen embryos. The embryo is thawed using a special solution. Fertility teams sometimes freeze embryos at different stages of development. The embryo may need a few additional days to be ready for implantation. Sometimes, the fertility clinic recommends preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), taking more time. PGT looks for genetic concerns that may affect pregnancy. The test also helps to choose the most viable embryo.

Preparing for transfer

About 2 weeks after estrogen treatment, the fertility clinic will perform an ultrasound to check the woman’s uterus. The uterus should be at least 7mm thick to accommodate the embryo. Once the uterine lining is healthy, the woman also starts progesterone medication. The added progesterone can take 2 weeks.

Implanting the embryo

The patient will come into the clinic for embryo transfer in the days following the progesterone treatment. The embryo transfer is a simple, non-invasive process that takes a few minutes. The doctor will use ultrasound to help direct the embryo to the uterus. Hormone medication continues after implantation until the pregnancy test in 2 weeks.

Is all this time worth it?

The entire frozen embryo process can take 6 weeks. With additional tests, FET can last up to 8 weeks. The fertility clinic will work to provide the best possible outcome during the timeframe. Frozen embryos have the additional benefit of testing, convenience, and cost. The woman and fertility clinic also has more time to improve the results. Overall, FET is an effective option for IVF.

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