Fighting Infertility With IVF & Frozen Embryos
Medical science has done wonders in the field of infertility. More than 12% of women are still unable to get pregnant naturally. Assistive reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) have made all the difference. IVF allows fertility clinics to create and freeze embryos for further use. Today, even women with no fertility issues can choose to freeze embryos for pregnancy later. When that time comes, infertility or not, the clinic will perform a frozen embryo transfer. Here’s what to expect during the process.
What is a frozen embryo transfer?
Frozen embryo transfer, or FET for short, means thawing out one or more embryos for pregnancy. For pregnancy to happen, a reproductive endocrinologist transfers the prepped embryo to the uterus. FET is often a part of IVF, where a clinic creates the embryo outside the body. FET is a perfect alternative to a fresh embryo transfer, allowing women and clinics to delay pregnancy or try multiple IVF cycles.
Starting FET with checks and balances
The frozen embryo process starts with a conversation. At this point, some women are ready for pregnancy. Others may be going through another cycle of IVF. Whatever the reason, everything starts here. The next step is to complete a full reproductive health check. The doctor performs an ultrasound to rule out physical conditions like fibroids or cysts. Once everything checks out, the next step is to prepare the uterus for pregnancy.
Moving to hormone medication
Preparing the uterus for pregnancy is the next step in the FET journey. Once the woman clears all the medical exams, hormone medication helps to prepare the uterine lining. The uterine lining must be the right thickness to accept the embryo. Over 10 or more days, the doctor will provide hormone medication injections. These injections happen every 2-3 days.
The timing’s right for FET
After almost 2 weeks of hormone injections, the woman revisits the clinic to check the uterine lining. The hormone medication’s only goal is to help thicken the uterine lining. A further ultrasound checks to see if the lining is ready for pregnancy. At this point, the clinic thaws the embryos for transfer. During the thawing process, one or more embryos may not be viable. The clinic will only provide the best embryos for transfer, often using techniques like preimplantation genetic testing.
Time for the transfer
On the day of the transfer, the woman comes in for a simple outpatient procedure. The doctor takes the thawed embryo through a cannula. From there, the embryo is transferred through the vagina into the uterus. The woman will feel some cramping during the process. A nurse will monitor the transfer for a short period before the patient leaves the clinic. After a successful transfer, the hopeful mother must wait for signs of pregnancy.
After the wait
In about 2 weeks, the doctor will request a pregnancy test to check for success. This period can be emotionally taxing for the hopeful mother, so self-care is crucial. Anxiety affects many women, and some are even tempted to take a test early. However, early tests can lead to disappointment. Be patient. At the same time, there may be some initial pregnancy symptoms. Bloating, fatigue, and tender breasts are early signs. As the days progress, some women will notice light spotting, cramps, and joint pain. These symptoms are positive signs, but only a test at the 2 weeks can confirm.
A future family awaits
If all goes well, the doctor will confirm the pregnancy. From there, the care along the rest of the journey will move to an OB/GYN. Unfortunately, pregnancy is not guaranteed. Many factors affect FET, including age, embryo quality, endometrial thickness, and much more. That said, FET has a high success rate. Make sure to speak with the fertility specialist about any concerns during FET. After a successful transfer, keep an eye on pregnancy symptoms until the time for the test.