Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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In vitro fertilization (IVF) can offer hope for couples who wish to have children but are unable to get pregnant without help. IVF involves combining an egg with sperm in a laboratory environment before returning the fertilized egg or eggs to your uterus .
When IVF is successful, the fertilized egg implants in the uterus and becomes a viable pregnancy. However, there aren’t any guarantees with IVF. For a variety of reasons, fertilized eggs may fail to implant.
This guide will walk you through what to look for if you’re concerned that your IVF wasn’t successful. It will also provide some tips for increasing your chances of successful implantation. It’s important to remember that IVF is not always successful on the first or even the second attempt so don’t feel hopeless if your first try doesn’t work.
IVF treatment involves returning fertilized eggs to your uterus. The goal is that one of the eggs will implant in the uterine wall and become a viable pregnancy. Unsuccessful implantation happens when the egg doesn’t attach and, instead, exits the body.
It isn’t immediately apparent if implantation has been successful or not. Typically, implantation can take several days. Your healthcare provider or fertility doctor may provide you with progesterone to increase the likelihood that the fertilized egg will implant successfully .
However, even when all precautions are taken, sometimes embryo implantation isn’t successful. Healthcare providers or fertility specialists don’t fully understand all of the causes of failed implantation but some reasons can include :
Failed embryo implantation is complex and more common than you may think. In a natural pregnancy, it’s believed that somewhere between 40 to 60% of embryos are lost during the period between fertilization and birth . However, all of these aren’t the result of failed implantation.
During IVF, approximately 5% of those who try to get pregnant this way will fail during at least two consecutive attempts . Nearly 75% of these failed attempts are thought to be due to implantation failure. Keep in mind that those who seek out IVF may have existing factors and complications that interfere with the ability of embryos to implant in their uterus. This makes it difficult to pin down the exact likelihood of success and failure of implantation.
Successful implantation leaves subtle signs, such as implantation bleeding, stomach cramps, bloating, and breast tenderness . Symptoms of failed implantation of fertilized eggs can be tough to distinguish from those that indicate successful implantation, as at times they are very similar.
Some signs that may indicate that implantation has failed include:
One of the earliest ways many people find out that implantation has failed is by getting their period . When an embryo doesn’t implant, you might experience the normal symptoms associated with menstruation, such as:
If you experience the symptoms you typically get with your period after undergoing IVF, these signs can indicate that implantation wasn’t successful.
However, getting your period isn’t a sure way to tell that implantation failed. As we mentioned, some of the same symptoms can be an indication of success. Instead, you will need to take a pregnancy test to confirm that you are or are not pregnant.
Pregnancy tests work by detecting the presence of the hormone hCG . This hormone is produced only once the fertilized embryo has implanted in the uterine lining. If a pregnancy test doesn’t detect hCG and it’s been two weeks since your procedure, it’s likely that it was unsuccessful.
Sometimes, you may think that implantation has occurred, only to find out during an ultrasound that it has failed. There might be several reasons for this, including :
Many factors that lead to infertility or failed implantation after IVF are beyond your control. However, you shouldn’t feel hopeless if you’ve had problems conceiving. Priming your body to be at its healthiest can help improve the chances that IVF is successful. Some steps that you can take include :
Finally, when your other fertility treatment options have been exhausted, your doctor may recommend surgical, immunomodulatory, or hormonal treatments to improve the likelihood of implantation. The successful pregnancy rate of these treatments varies and the costs can be quite high.
In vitro fertilization or IVF treatment can help those who have trouble getting pregnant achieve their dream of having a baby. However, IVF isn’t always successful. It’s important to watch out for signs that implantation has failed such as heavy bleeding, stomach pain, and a failure to locate a heartbeat during an ultrasound. There are many reasons why a fertilized egg may fail to implant, most of which are beyond your control.
If you’ve been trying to start a family but haven’t had success, you may want to check your fertility levels before taking the next steps. The Everlywell Women's Fertility Test is a simple, at-home test that can measure certain hormones that influence your fertility. Once you learn more about your hormones and fertility levels, you can take the appropriate next steps.
All the test requires is a simple, finger-prick blood sample. It couldn’t be easier to take control of your health with Everlywell.