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The Ins and Outs of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

The Dreaded Two-Week Wait

Once the embryos have been transferred, there is another waiting period. For many couples, this nearly two-week wait can be the most difficult part of the IVF cycle.
It may help to plan ahead for this waiting period. Consider how you will fill your time. Try to plan some things that may distract you, such as a little getaway with your partner, funny movies, a new book, or other things you enjoy. This can help get your mind off all the "what ifs" and constant worry that may come while waiting for this time to pass. The most important part is to try to stay positive.
Also during this time, it will be important to help support the uterine lining. Beginning the day of the egg retrieval (or the day after), you will receive progesterone supplementation. In order for the embryo to implant successfully, the uterine lining needs to be optimal. This can be achieved by progesterone.
Progesterone comes in vaginal, oral, or injectable forms. In some cases, you may need to use a combination of methods. This hormone will need to be taken on a daily basis at least until you get a positive pregnancy test. In some cases, if you are pregnant, you may still need to continue using progesterone for several more weeks.

Time for the Results

About 9 to 12 days after the embryo transfer, you will have a pregnancy test to determine whether your IVF procedure was successful. This blood test is typically called a "beta hCG" test, as it measures a beta chain portion of the hCG hormone released by the developing embryo.
If you had a positive beta test, you will repeat the test in two to three days. The beta test indicates the level of hCG found in the blood. In a healthy pregnancy, this number will increase fairly rapidly. A first beta test result of 100 is good, although there are many cases where it may be less than this amount and still be a successful pregnancy. Ideally, the hCG level should double every three days early on to confirm a pregnancy is proceeding normally.
If your blood tests continue to suggest a pregnancy has occurred, you will be scheduled for an ultrasound around six to eight weeks gestation. This is the point where a heartbeat and gestational sac can be seen to confirm the pregnancy. At the end of eight weeks, you will be released into the care of your obstetrician for the typical prenatal care.
If your blood tests come back negative, it can be devastating, particularly after the amount of work, money, and emotion you have put into the last several weeks. Having a support system in place can be crucial for many couples. It's also important to remember that just because one IVF cycle failed, it doesn't mean that the next one will.
If you had additional embryos left over, you may have an option to do another IVF cycle. Although some women can start a new IVF cycle on their next menstrual cycle, some may want to wait a month or longer.
If you choose to have another IVF cycle, your healthcare provider will discuss your options and any possible changes that might need to be made to your particular IVF protocol.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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