Frozen Embryo Transfers (FET), although they can be stressful for various reasons, in and of itself, are supposed to be easy breezy. However, my experience was everything but that.
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My transfer day, which was a holiday, meant my daughter was home from school. Therefore, I went alone since my husband had to watch her.
When I got to the office, I went to the lab for baseline bloodwork for my progesterone and estrogen levels, and then went over to the operating room (OR) for my scheduled embryo transfer. Having my transfer done in the OR sounds scarier than it is. It is only done there because the embryo lab is there.
During my wait, I was instructed to drink one bottle of water because for FETs your bladder has to be full. Full bladders are needed because it helps angle your uterus in a way that makes it clear for the doctor to see what’s going on via ultrasound.
Before the Embryo is Transferred
The embryologist asks me to confirm my demographic information (name, date of birth, etc.), and then see if it matches the roster of embryos I have frozen, including the one that was thawed for this transfer. Once that was confirmed, my doctor, who wasn’t the same doctor as the one who did my retrieval, went over the procedure.
My cervix was cleaned, and then a trial transfer was done to see how easily the catheter inserted into my uterus via my cervix. This was easy. There wasn’t any pain, nor was I uncomfortable.
Once the trial transfer was deemed successful, my doctor let the embryologist know so that she could load the thawed embryo into the catheter. This was such a delicate process. The embryologist brought the catheter into the OR to my doctor, who inserted it into my uterus guided by ultrasound. Once the ultrasound showed that a small white bubble was inside of my uterus, the catheter was released and then given back to the embryologist. The embryologist then went back into the lab to check to see if the embryo was actually transferred.
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My Embryo Got Stuck During My Frozen Embryo Transfer!
I thought that this was going to be a simple process. I go in with a full bladder, and then the embryo would be inserted via a catheter. Guess what? It wasn’t that easy. I had a fully hatched day 5 blastocyst (Embryo #11) that just didn’t want to get transferred.
Each time the doctor tried to insert the embryo, the embryologist would state that it was still in the catheter and not in my uterus. At least three times the embryologist took the catheter with the embryo inside back to the lab to flush it out in order to restart the process. This seemed like forever!
The last time the embryologist brought the catheter back with my very “sticky” embryo, it deflated due to stress. Therefore, I had to make a decision – postpone the transfer or thaw one of the ten remaining. I chose the latter.
Waiting for Another Embryo to Thaw
The wait time for an embryo to thaw is about an hour. However, just because an embryo is thawing doesn’t mean it will survive the thaw and will be usable. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. The embryo thawed and was viable.
During the one-hour wait for the other embryo to thaw, I couldn’t fully empty my bladder so that was torture. I was allowed to try to empty “just a little”. But I also had to keep drinking water. Torture!
Once the embryologist stated that the embryo survived the thaw and ready to proceed with the transfer, the whole process was done yet again. Cervix cleaning and all. The 2nd embryo, which was a 5-day embryo that wasn’t completely hatched needed some assistance hatching. A small crack was placed in the shell of the embryo to help it stick to my uterine lining once implanted. This turned out to be the better option because it wasn’t as “sticky” as the completely hatched embryo they first tried transferring.
Fourth Time’s the Charm!
This time the catheter was taken back to the lab, and then inspected under a microscope for several minutes to double, triple, quadruple check that the embryo did indeed transfer into my uterus. Finally, the embryologist gave a thumbs up and said: “Everything is all clear!” My doctor, nurses and I gave huge sighs of relief. I was officially pregnant! Pregnant until proven otherwise (PUPO). The otherwise was aunt flow showing up and/or a negative blood test, which takes place after the dreaded two-week wait.
Related: Tips to Help You Survive the Two-Week Wait
The Two Week Wait
The two-week wait really isn’t two weeks. My pregnancy blood test was actually 10 days after my FET. In between that time I continued taking daily estrogen supplements (Estrace) and vaginal progesterone suppositories, and progesterone in oil (PIO) injections every three days. Although it was tempting to test on my own during that time, I didn’t. Plus, not having any at-home pregnancy tests on hand helped a lot. I figured if I was pregnant, I’d find out when I was meant to.
Related: Tips to Help You Survive the Two-Week Wait
Because of how the transfer went, I was not optimistic. I immediately texted my husband after I left the office, feeling defeated. He, in turn, provided words of encouragement. Everything happens for a reason, and even though a simple procedure turned into a half-day ordeal, the end result shows that the right embryo was transferred that day.
What Happened to the First Embryo?
After my transfer, the embryologist sent a “FET Cycle Summary” report. This report detailed the results of the embryos thawed and transferred. Embryo #11, which was the fully hatched embryo that didn’t want to get implanted – it must be a boy- was placed in culture and re-assessed for viability. The lab wanted to see whether or not within a 24-hour period, this embryo would re-expand and viable for re-freezing. The following day, I received this portal message from the embryologist: “Embryo #11 is viable – it re-expanded and was able to be refrozen. There are now 10 embryos remaining in storage.” That’s great news! Should we ever decide to have another sibling – go for the boy my husband wants – we have 10 embryos from which to choose.
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