USC Fertility

Embryo Transfer

Learn more about the IVF embryo transfer process

The last step of in vitro fertilization (IVF) for patients at our Los Angeles fertility clinic is the embryo transfer. This process involves a fertility specialist inserting one of the patient’s fresh or frozen embryos into the uterus of the patient or a gestational surrogate. Ideally, the embryo implants in the uterus and the woman has a healthy pregnancy and baby.

The difference between a fresh and a frozen transfer

A decision that patients need to make during their IVF cycle is whether they want the doctor to transfer a fresh or a frozen embryo. The doctors at our Los Angeles fertility clinic work with patients to help them understand the difference between these types of transfers. They also help them make the decision that works best for their unique circumstances.

Scheduling. When utilizing a fresh embryo, the doctor must transfer it into the uterus a few days after the egg retrieval. However, the doctor can transfer a frozen embryo at any time. The patient just needs to take medication to prepare the uterine lining first.

Preparation of the uterine lining. During a fresh transfer, the woman’s uterus is typically thickened by the hormones that the ovarian follicles release. For a frozen transfer or a fresh transfer with a surrogate, the woman prepares her uterine lining with medication.

Genetic testing. If the patient wants to use preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), they need to have their embryos frozen. During a fresh transfer, there’s not enough time between the fertilization of the eggs and the embryo transfer for this testing.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). When a woman has a fresh transfer shortly after an egg retrieval, she has a higher chance of developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can cause swelling and discomfort. A frozen transfer greatly reduces this risk.

While fertility specialists still recommend fresh transfers in some situations, frozen transfers have become more common.

What can you expect during an embryo transfer?

The embryo transfer is an incredibly quick procedure that the doctor performs at our Los Angeles fertility clinic. If the patient selects a frozen transfer, an embryologist thaws the embryo shortly before the transfer. In addition, before a frozen transfer, the patient or the gestational surrogate takes medication for two weeks to prepare the uterine lining.

On the day of the transfer, the doctor places a speculum in the woman’s vagina and removes any cervical mucous that could impede the embryo’s ability to reach the top of the uterus. Next, an embryologist places the embryo in a catheter, or a small tube, and brings it to the operating room. Using an ultrasound for guidance, the doctor then inserts the embryo into the woman’s uterus. This process usually takes less than 10 minutes. The patient will then take hormonal supplements until they take a pregnancy test about two weeks after the transfer.

The knowledgeable and compassionate staff at our clinic walks patients through each step of this process. Our goal is to ensure that they feel calm and hopeful about fulfilling their dream of parenthood. Contact us for more information about IVF and our other fertility services.