Moving from bed to couch and stopping only to pee along the way was how I spent 72 hours after my first embryo transfer. It was the hardest part of my IVF experience.
72 excruciating hours
While I realize that bed rest is a serious condition that pregnant women are sometimes prescribed, after only three days of it I wanted to poke my eyes out, so my hat is off to anyone who has suffered through it.
I’m antsy by nature and have a hard time relaxing, especially when told I have to, but I would do anything to have another healthy baby, so I accepted the challenge gratefully. I very quickly realized that one can only watch so much bad TV, read and play rounds of Words With Friends and Scrabble before one starts to go more than a little stir crazy.
Moving from the bed to the couch and stopping only to pee along the way was how I spent the 72 hours after my first (and only, to date) embryo transfer in October 2011. It was quite possibly the hardest 72 hours of my life. I was not allowed to be higher than 45 degrees and told not to shower for the first two days.
I tried to fill my mind with only warm positive images. Having nothing to do and nowhere to go gives you a lot of time to just be with your thoughts and feelings, so I daydreamed, reflected, hoped, planned and mentally prepared for the weeks ahead… come what may.
All for naught
Turns out prescribed bed rest after embryo transfer is an old wives’ tale and sadly I ended up having a blighted ovum (also known as an “anembryonic pregnancy”), which happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. Cells develop to form the pregnancy sac, but not the embryo itself.
I was under the care of a different RE at the time and since then have learned a lot more about the IVF process and talked to the RE I am currently seeing and several others that agree there is no good evidence that shows bed rest after embryo transfer (during the IVF process) is necessary.
De-stress is more important than bed rest
Dr. Kaylen Silverberg, M.D., fertility expert at Texas Fertility Center says, “Fertility clinics still encourage bed rest after embryo transfer primarily because we have been doing this for so long, it’s considered to be ‘necessary’ by our patients.”
Silverberg goes on to explain, “While most clinics believe the scientific research that suggests that bed rest after embryo transfer is not truly needed, it’s certainly not harmful to the process. Allowing patients a small ‘rest period’ after transfer may well put their minds at ease and improve their psychological well-being.”
Serena H. Chen, director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey says, “We have not found any evidence to support that bed rest improves implantation rates in IVF. We do know that proactive stress management is beneficial and if a little extra rest helps you to de-stress then we support that.”
Chen adds, “Tying a women down to bed rest after her transfer would drive many women crazy and is therefore, probably counterproductive. There is no magic bullet to improve implantation — Mother Nature is in charge once the embryo is transferred and your job is to not get in her way by managing your stress, laughing, eating healthy, getting a little bit of exercise, avoiding hot tubs, alcohol and taking your vitamins. In other words, doing all the things you know you should be doing to stay healthy.
For some doctors it is a lot easier to go with tradition and tell patients what they think they want to hear, rather than to spend time educating them and correcting this old wives’ tale. Either way, I’m just glad I won’t have to go through it again! My RE believes in two days of relaxation, which is way different than bed rest.