Implantation after IVF: 10 crucial tips
Can you improve implantation chances after an IVF transfer? It’s the question all our patients ask, and rightly so. Your embryo transfer went well. Your emotions are highly charged. You’ll do anything to make implantation happen. So here are 10 tips to improve your implantation prospects after an IVF cycle.
1. Take time off.
We mean it. Implantation takes place between 1 and 5 days after a blastocyst transfer. If you didn’t have a day-5 transfer, your implantation window is 6 to 10 days after egg retrieval. Take that week off. There’s no hard evidence to suggest being home alone helps – but research isn’t everything. Stay at home. Take it easy. Watch TV. Don’t stress. Be anywhere except the office. This is your time.
2. Go for blastocysts. And put in two.
Research says blastocysts have higher implantation rates than younger embryos. You need great embryos (and a receptive uterus) to maximise implantation after IVF. Sure, your doctor will tell you day-3 embryos can make it. But if your embryos develop into good-quality blastocysts, things may turn out better. Transfer a hatching or expanding blastocyst and implantation is even more likely.
How your embryos develop is, of course, out of your control. But just be aware that top-grade embryos boost your chances. If you’re over 40, the plain truth is that donor eggs and embryos deliver the best implantation rates. Putting in two, where each embryo has an equal chance of implanting, may be a risk worth taking when you’re older. Talk to your doctor and ignore the one-at-a-time brigade.
3. Get your lining in shape.
Implantation can’t happen if your endometrial lining is too thin. It’s vital to check how your lining is thickening during an IVF cycle. 7 mm is the target on transfer day, but 8 mm or more is optimal. If you’re having donor eggs, donor embryos or a frozen embryo cycle, you’ll be on estrogen. Check your lining thickness at least 4 days before you’re due to start your progesterone. This gives you time to increase your estrogen intake if needed. And avoid estrogen patches: pills work better.
4. Implantation foods? Tread with care.
Google pineapple and you’ll read it’s good for implantation. Nonsense. The same goes for green tea, raspberry leaves, bananas, tofu and 101 other so-called implantation foods. If your uterus needed specific foods to boost implantation, your clinic would have prescribed them. How many Mongolian yams does your pharmacy keep in stock?
The reason it’s dangerous to fixate on specific foods around implantation is that they may cause more harm than good. They detract you from what you should be doing: eating a balanced diet from at least three months before your fertility treatment starts. Avoid processed foods, limit your sugar, eat good carbohydrates, add in oily fish twice a week, don’t neglect proteins and pulses, take a daily multivitamin with folic acid… you get the idea.
5. Your uterus loves progesterone. Take the right one.
Progesterone makes your uterine lining super-receptive. Taken from egg retrieval day, it prepares your endometrium to receive your embryos in style. But some progesterone supplements are more equal than others. We took, and recommend, intramuscular injections (Gestone and Agolutin). Progesterone-in-oil shots release the hormone slowly and evenly throughout the body. No messy pessaries or oral pills that can send you sky-high. Progesterone injections create an optimal environment for implantation. Trust us, it’s worth the pain.
6. Screen those embryos… maybe.
Fact: older women produce poorer-quality eggs. Another fact: embryos produced by older women have a higher chance of chromosomal abnormalities. If you’re over 40 and having IVF with your own eggs, it may be worth have PGD (also known as PGS) to screen out chromosomal problems and specific medical conditions. It’s not for everyone. But genetic screening has improved over the last few years and the new a-CGH method is getting promising results. Speak to your clinic: PGD might improve your implantation chances. Might.
7. Expensive extras? The jury’s out.
Heard the one about embryo glue? Or time-lapse cameras? Or uterine testing to predict your most fertile window for embryo transfer? They sound good, but the truth is, their effectiveness hasn’t been conclusively proved in large, randomized medical trials. They claim to improve implantation rates. Until we see more research, take those claims with a pinch of salt. Trust the traditional light microscope and embryologist skill. You’re better off checking the experience and credentials of your clinic’s embryology team that paying through the nose for technology that hasn’t been rubber-stamped – yet.
8. Bleeding? Could be good news.
Implantation bleeding after an IVF cycle is common. Look out for a little light spotting – a pink or brown discharge – in the days just after your transfer. If it’s accompanied by mild cramping, things may really be going your way. Whatever happens, don’t stop your meds. Do a pregnancy test on the day you should (not before) to find out.
9. Have a scratch – your uterus will love you.
Endometrial scratches are becoming popular – and the research is looking promising. In the days leading up to the menstrual bleed at the start of your IVF cycle, a surgical scratch of your uterine lining may prime your womb for implantation. Ask your clinic if they’ll do it. If you’re having a hysteroscopy, time it right and have an endometrial lining scratch at the same time.
10. Relax. But no baths.
Hot baths and implantation don’t mix. Or at least, there’s some evidence that sitting in hot water for long periods isn’t a good idea. So play safe: have quick, two-minute, warm showers and abandon the bubble bath for a few weeks. Relaxation is key – just don’t do it in the tub around implantation time!