Is It Time To FET?
A frozen embryo transfer (FET) is an essential part of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. Some women may need FET after an unsuccessful IVF cycle. Others would have already stored embryos and are finally ready to start a family. A frozen embryo transfer brings a lot of uncertainty, but there is some good news. Studies show that frozen embryos have as high a success rate as fresh embryos. Understanding the transfer timeline could help provide a smooth, stress-free experience.
What is a frozen embryo transfer exactly?
When a couple decides on IVF, the fertility clinic must create several fresh embryos. The clinic achieves this by combining reproductive material from the sperm and egg. After making the embryos, 1-2 embryos are implanted into the woman’s womb. The clinic then freezes the remaining embryos for future use. A FET is the process of thawing and implanting one or more stored embryos. Frozen embryos reduce the IVF timeline, decrease costs, and even allow genetic testing.
Ready for transfer
The transfer process starts with hormone medications over 3-4 weeks. First may come a series of birth control to suppress the chances of ovulation. Next, the doctor will prescribe hormone medication once this is achieved and confirmed with tests. This medication prepares the uterine lining for embryo transfer.
Time to implant
The embryologist thaws the frozen egg nearing the end of the 3-4 week period. Based on the cells’ frozen stage, the embryologist may need additional days for the embryo to mature. Around this time, the doctor will perform ultrasounds to confirm the thickness of the uterine lining. Then, progesterone treatments start, and the embryo transfer happens 3-5 days later.
Frozen vs fresh implantation
The doctor will then transfer the embryo using a simple medical procedure. The transfer occurs by inserting 1-2 embryos into the uterus with a micropipette and ultrasound. A fresh embryo can take about 1-3 days to implant into the uterus. Frozen embryos may take about 5 days. These additional days determine when the patient can take a pregnancy test. Progesterone treatments continue for up to 2 weeks, even if pregnancy is confirmed.
Patience equals success
On average, the entire FET process can take 6-8 weeks. The goal during this time is to create the best conditions for the embryo. The clinic also has time to prepare the best embryos or perform genetic testing. Follow the instructions of the fertility team as much as possible while exercising patience. At the same time, practice self-care and have confidence in the team’s abilities.