Women imagine that when the doctor puts the embryos inside the uterus, they are deposited inside a space within the uterus in which the microscopic embryos can roll freely! They believe that if they rest, the embryos will settle down and stick to the wall of the cavity. After all, when you stick two pages together with glue, don’t you leave them undisturbed for some time to allow the glue to set ? They are worried that if they walk about, the embryos will be disturbed from their resting place , and may fall out of the cavity.
In reality, the uterus is a muscular organ , about the size of your fist. When people hear the word ‘uterine cavity’, they imagine that there is a real cavity within the uterus ( like a cave, perhaps) , but this is not true. The cavity we talk about is not a true cavity , but just a potential cavity . The walls of the uterus are in contact with each other – after all, there cannot be any empty areas inside the body ! For example, press your palms together. There is no real space between them , since your palms are touching each other. What happens when you insert a small ball in between your palms ? The ball has created a space for itself ! In the same way , a uterus which doesn’t have an embryo inside it carries only a potential space. Only when the embryo grows in size will this space enlarge. Do you know that at 5 weeks of gestation your embryo is just the size of a sesame seed ? Imagine what will happen if you keep a seed between your pressed palms and move your hands in whatever way you might wish to ? There is no way the seed will be dislodged - it is safe , snug and secure in its resting place. This is exactly what happens to your embryos inside your uterus ! Nothing you do can dislodge an embryo – NOTHING (even jumping or running) ! If the embryo is healthy and if your endometrial layer is receptive , the embryo will stick to the wall and bury itself inside the lining (just like a seed does , when planted in fertile soil). External physical activity cannot influence this natural biological process which occurs in utero.
A lot women refuse to go to the bathroom for a few hours after the embryo transfer, because they are scared that if they pee, their embryo will fall out of the uterus. They just end up making themselves completely miserable – and I worry that an overdistended bladder can actually cause uterine contractions needlessly ! Others are scared that if they cough or sneeze after the transfer, they will ruin their chances of success. Please do not obsess – remember that nature has designed the body with enough intelligence, that you don’t need to worry at all !
After the transfer, the uterus can contract (for example , during an orgasm, which often occurs while sleeping during the 2ww ), but the progesterone produced during the luteal phase will prevent these uterine contractions from dislodging the embryo. Intercourse and orgasm cannot cause any harm after the transfer – after all, fertile couples do have sexual intercourse during the 2ww, and they get pregnant all the time.
After an embryo transfer , bed rest is absolutely unnecessary. I have heard from women who have been forced to spend 2 weeks in bed after the embryo transfer – and many of them have done so because of their doctor’s orders ! ( I think the reason some doctors continue to give this outdated advise is a clever way of subtly blaming the patient if the cycle fails ! “ You didn’t get pregnant even though I did such a good job with your IVF treatment , because you did not rest properly “ is their subliminal message) . Even a couple of days in bed can do you harm , physically and emotionally. Bed rest may increase body aches and back pain , and makes your physically uncomfortable. Resting may actually reduce uterine blood flow by reducing pelvic circulation. Bed rest creates havoc with your mental well-being as well ! When you lie down in bed all the time and have nothing to do, your mind will start to play all sorts of games with you. The end result is an unhealthy obsession with your body’s symptoms and signs – and this often causes panic , which does not help after a stressful IVF cycle. The bed rest, rather than resting your mind, often causes more stress !
Please do not restrict your normal day-to-day activities after an embryo transfer. Use your common sense, and do not do any strenuous activity which might cause you to blame yourself if your cycle fails ! And what happens if your mother in law enforces house arrest ? Remember that she has been brainwashed , and is following well-meaning but misguided advise, based on centuries of myths and misconceptions about bed rest and pregnancy. She is not trying to harass you – she is just trying to help you to have a baby , based on her personal ( but flawed) world view ! Please don’t rock the boat by flatly refusing to listen to her – just give her this article to read , so she understands why bed rest does not help! And if she is still unconvinced, please share this with her - Bed rest has not been scientifically proven to improve pregnancy rate after embryo transfer(PMID: 19590224).
This is an excerpt from our forthcoming, book, The Expert Patient's Guide to IVF. This being authored by our expert patient, Manju and me.
You can email Manju at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her blog is at www.myselfishgenes.blogspot.