The 2-week wait from an embryo transfer to when you can take a pregnancy test can feel like an eternity.
Between checking your panties for implantation bleeding to poking your breasts to see how tender they are, you can put yourself through a lot of anxiety and stress wondering if any possible symptom could equate to a positive pregnancy test.
And although some symptoms may point to a successful procedure, they can also be related to the fertility drugs and other medications you’re taking to get pregnant.
“In general, there are no specific signs that an embryo transfer has been successful until the pregnancy test itself,” says Dr. Tanmoy Mukherjee, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at RMA of New York.
That’s because the estrogen and progesterone commonly taken prior to embryo transfer, and the progesterone taken after the transfer, mimic the bloating, sore breasts, and discharge of pregnancy.
However, many women still keep a close eye on any positive sign that may indicate a successful embryo transfer. And while you may experience some or none of these symptoms, it’s important to understand their role in the process.
Light bleeding or spotting is often the first sign of pregnancy.
Spotting in your underwear or on toilet paper when you wipe could indicate implantation, which means the embryo has implanted into the lining of the uterine wall.
Mukherjee says that some spotting or bleeding one week after embryo transfer may be a good sign. Unfortunately, he says, bleeding is such a concerning sign that it fails to provide reassurance for many women.
Plus, spotting is also a common occurrence when taking hormone medications such as progesterone during the 2-week period after the embryo transfer.
Most likely, your doctor will have you continue taking progesterone to help your body produce the same levels of hormones it would during the early weeks of pregnancy — which means spotting may or may not be a sign of a successful embryo transfer.
Cramping is one of the first signs that “Aunt Flow” is on her way. It may also be a sign that an embryo transfer was successful.
But before you reach for a pregnancy test, remember, mild cramping can also be related to the progesterone you’re taking during the 2-week wait, according to the National Infertility Association.
And for some women, mild cramping can also occur immediately following any pelvic procedure.
One early sign of pregnancy, for some women, is sore breasts.
If your breasts are swollen or tender to the touch and hurt when you bump them, this could be a sign of a positive embryo transfer.
Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, an OB-GYN and director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals, says breast tenderness is due to the effect of pregnancy hormones.
That said, sore breasts could also be a side effect of the hormone medication you’re taking during the 2-week wait. Injectable and oral progesterone are also known for causing breast tenderness.
Feeling tired and fatigued seems to be a normal part of pregnancy from day one to delivery (and beyond!). But, you may feel extra sleepy early on when your progesterone levels soar.
In general, most women will feel fatigued right about the time they’re due for their period. While this could indicate a successful embryo transfer, it could also just be a side effect of the various fertility drugs you’re taking.
The most common cause of fatigue is the heightened progesterone levels, either via pregnancy or the medications your doctor prescribed.
Nausea or morning sickness typically starts in the second month of pregnancy, so it’s not necessarily a symptom you would notice in the 2 weeks following an embryo transfer.
In fact, many women who do get this dreaded symptom report feeling sick to their stomach about 2 weeks after they miss a period.
However, if you do experience nausea or vomiting during the 2-week window, take note of it — especially if it becomes frequent — and talk to your doctor.
You can blame an increase in progesterone levels for the extra bloat around your belly. When this hormone surges, as it does when you’re pregnant or taking fertility drugs, it can slow down your digestive tract and cause you to feel more bloated than usual.
This can happen before your period, if you’re pregnant, or when taking progesterone and other drugs during in vitro fertilization and after an embryo transfer.
If your doctor prescribes progesterone in a vaginal preparation (suppositories, gel, or vaginal tablets) to use during the 2-week wait, you may notice changes in vaginal discharge that have nothing to do with a positive pregnancy test.
Burning, itching, discharge, and yeast infections are all side effects of using vaginal capsules or suppositories.
An increase in vaginal discharge can also be an early sign of pregnancy. If the changes are a result of a successful embryo transfer (and ultimately, a positive pregnancy test), you may notice a thin, white, mild-smelling discharge during the early weeks of pregnancy.
Late-night trips to the bathroom and an increased need to make more pit stops could be a sign of early pregnancy.
Some women even notice a need to urinate more often before they miss a period. But more than likely, this is another symptom you’ll notice after you miss a period.
The frequent trips to the bathroom are a result of an increase in the pregnancy hormone hCG, as well as a spike in progesterone. If the embryo transfer was a success, the increased need to pee is a result of the extra blood in your body.
Unfortunately, increased urination can also be a symptom of a urinary tract infection — so contact your doctor if you have any of these symptoms as well:
- painful urination
- urgency to pee
- nausea and vomiting
A missed period can signal pregnancy, especially if your cycle runs like clockwork. For women who can count on their period occurring at the same time each month, being late might indicate it’s time to take a pregnancy test.
If, after reading this list, you realize that none of these apply, don’t worry. Just because you’re not experiencing specific symptoms, doesn’t mean the embryo transfer wasn’t successful.
“The presence or absence of these symptoms are nonspecific and do not predict pregnancy outcome,” says Mukherjee. The listed symptoms, he says, are most commonly the result of estrogen and progesterone administration.
“In fact, 10 to 15 percent of patients have no symptoms at all, but still thankfully have a positive pregnancy test,” he adds.
The only for-sure way to know if your embryo transfer worked is a positive pregnancy test.
We know you’re eager to see those two lines or plus sign, but test too soon after an embryo transfer and you risk being disappointed — not to mention, out $15 for the cost of the test.
Ideally, you should wait until you’ve missed your period. This will give you the most accurate results.
But let’s be honest — it’s hard to be patient. So, if you’re itching to test, wait at least 10 days after the transfer.
More specifically, Mukherjee says the embryo will attach within 48 to 72 hours after the transfer. The growing embryo will then increase in size and metabolic activity, producing more hCG until it can be reliably detected 9 to 10 days after embryo transfer. This is why your clinic will likely schedule an hCG blood test around this time.
The 2-week wait after an embryo transfer is often filled with emotional, stressful, and exhausting ups and downs.
Although some early signs such as light bleeding, spotting, and cramping could mean the procedure was a success, the only guaranteed way to determine if you’re pregnant is a positive test.