Embryo Transfer – A Critical Step in the IVF Process
The final and perhaps most critical step of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment involves the transfer of the embryo into the mother’s womb. The process is conducted by an IVF doctor with ultrasound guidance using a transfer catheter. It’s a delicate procedure that requires a careful hand and a highly skilled doctor.
“The entire IVF cycle depends on delicate placement of the embryos at the proper location near the middle of the endometrial cavity – with minimal trauma and manipulation,” says Dr. Richard Sherbahn, MD, of the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago, USA.1 He adds: “The importance of proper embryo transfer technique for successful IVF cannot be overstated.”
The steps that precede the transfer of the embryo are listed below.
- Ovarian stimulation – the ovaries of the female patient are stimulated with medication in order to make them produce more eggs.
- Trigger administration – an injection, or trigger, is given to help the eggs complete maturation and loosen from the follicular wall.
- Egg retrieval – the eggs are retrieved or extracted from the ovaries with ultrasound guidance. The patient is sedated for the procedure and does not experience any discomfort or pain.
- Sperm Retrieval – the male partner provides a semen sample from which sperm are extracted. If necessary, the sperm can be extracted in a separate procedure. The sperm is processed.
- The eggs are fertilised with the processed sperm. Fertilised eggs are referred to as embryos.
- The embryos are cultured in an incubator for several days.
- The best embryo (or embryos) are selected for transfer into the female partner’s uterus.
Quite a lot happens before the embryo is transferred, but the transfer process, if not handled properly, can put the entire process at risk. That is why it is very important to choose a highly qualified and experienced fertility specialist for the procedure. Placing the embryo too close or too far from the uterus will interfere with implantation. Ideally, the embryo should be placed roughly one centimeter from the uterus.
The process is similar to a Pap smear – an experience most women are familiar with. Following the transfer, women are often advised to lie on their backs for a while before leaving the clinic. They should also limit physical activity for the rest of the day.