EAED Academy

Embryo Transfer Process: Shots, Meds, & Ultrasounds

How the embryo transfer process works
How a frozen embryo transfer works

I never thought this would be me. Shooting an inch and half needle into my rear end? Or sitting cross-legged on a wheeled gurney, staring at the mesmerizing picture of two embryos that were in a freezer one day and would be inside me the next? I was supposed to adopt a baby, pick them up from the hospital. But since that hasn’t worked out so far – here I am, an embryo adoption mama getting ready for my frozen embryo transfer.

Medically speaking, embryo adoption requires a frozen embryo transfer (FET). The transfer cycle starts with testing to ensure your uterus can carry a pregnancy. Next, you take a combination of medication to get your body prepared for the transfer. This protocol will vary by doctor but will often include something to suppress ovulation (they won’t need your eggs for the frozen transfer!) and something to build the uterine lining (the embryos will need somewhere comfy to snuggle in!). My medication protocol had tiny stomach injections to suppress ovulation, estrogen pills, and finally, the dreaded progesterone in oil (PIO) injections to help the babies stick.

A few days before the frozen embryo transfer, you will have blood work and an ultrasound to make sure your uterine lining has built up sufficiently and that your body has adequate hormone levels to support a pregnancy. Oh, how fun a transvaginal ultrasound is! You may have monitoring with your local OB and you may go to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), a specialist. They will send the results to the clinic doing the embryo transfer (if you aren’t having the transfer done by them), and hopefully you will get a call with a green light to proceed with the embryo transfer.

Here begins my embryo transfer story… the day of embryo transfer began with filling up my bladder with plenty of fluids as a full bladder allows the doctor a clear view of all the goods during the ultrasound. Next came taking some relaxation medication. Once I arrived at my clinic, I painstakingly waited for my turn (it turns out, a full bladder when they’re running behind is even more fun than a transvaginal ultrasound!).

Finally, I undressed from the waist down, put on a hospital gown and a cute blue medical cap, and sat not so patiently on a gurney while I learned which frozen embryos thawed and which ones didn’t. It’s emotional to learn that some may not have survived the thaw while clutching a treasured photo of the little squirts that did. Oh, how I love them already!

The embryo transfer itself is pretty easy. I consider it an upgraded pap smear. I climbed up on the table and spread my legs.  My doctor cleaned my nether regions with warm water and a sterilizing solution that stung like the dickens. The nurse angled the ultrasound so my uterus- and full bladder- were in view. The embryologist passed a catheter containing my bundles of joy into the doctor who slid it in and dropped the embryos off into their new home.  And that was it!

Well, there’s the sliding whaleishly back onto the gurney, being wheeled into recovery where my husband was waiting, and laying inverted for about 30 minutes… but that’s all a foggy memory in comparison to the exciting moment of “meeting” my adopted embryos.

A two week wait follows the embryo transfer. So much effort, sacrifice, and love went into the cycle. I wondered if these would be my “take home babies” or if I would have to go back for round two? Either way, the experience is totally worth it to know the embryos were released from their frozen state and given a chance at life.

Credit: Sara at Chronicles of an Adoption

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