After the IVF embryo transfer, the nail-biting wait for a hopeful BFP (big fat positive pregnancy test result) begins. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about testing for pregnancy during IVF.
How early can I test for pregnancy after an IVF transfer?
After the transfer of a 5-day embryo, it takes a few days for the embryo to snuggle in and attach to the endometrial lining. When this happens, a woman's body begins to produce the pregnancy hormone (hCG) from cells in the developing placenta.
Home urine test: Depending on when implantation occurs, pregnancy may be able to be detected in certain early home pregnancy tests as soon as five days after a transfer of a 5-day embryo. To detect pregnancy as early as possible, you’ll want to use a high-sensitivity test like the Natalist Pregnancy Test, which can detect the pregnancy hormone at a threshold of 10 mIU/mL.
However, some women won’t see a positive result on a home-test until seven or more days after transfer. If you want to test for pregnancy at home after an embryo transfer, and have a blood test scheduled for Day 10, I personally recommend testing in the morning every day starting six days after the transfer.
Blood test: One study of 369 patients undergoing IVF showed that an early blood test for pregnancy at five to six days after transfer was very predictive of successful pregnancies for both fresh and frozen embryo transfers. The study looked at 160 positive and 84 negative blood pregnancy tests measured five to six days after transfer. Of the positive tests, 73.9% had a live birth and 16.2% had a biochemical loss (early miscarriage). Of the negative tests, 20% were positive on days nine to 11, but 82.4% of these were biochemical losses and only 3.6% had a live birth.
Can I take a home pregnancy test during IVF?
Some clinics ask that you wait for a pregnancy blood test (β-hCG, or “beta”) to test for pregnancy instead of taking an at-home pregnancy test. I personally have never been able to wait the two weeks and have done home tests sooner, starting five or six days after the transfer.
The pro of taking a test at home is that you can get the answer sooner.
The risks of taking an at-home test are:
- False positives: If your medications contain hCG, the test may just be picking up on the hormones from the fertility treatment. If you don’t know if your medications included hCG, ask your clinic.
- False negatives: If done too early, there may not be enough of the hCG hormone present in the urine to show a positive. As the pregnancy advances and more hCG is present in the body, the chance of a false negative decreases.
- User error: If not taken correctly, a home pregnancy test can produce an invalid result.
- Chemical pregnancy: Because it’s early, the pregnancy could be a biochemical loss (early miscarriage).
Keep in mind if you test at home and get a negative, there’s still a chance you are pregnant so don’t go off your medication regimen! The blood pregnancy test at your clinic will give you the official confirmation.
Read more about your chances of pregnancy from IVF.
Best at-home pregnancy test for IVF
Our at-home pregnancy test can detect the hCG hormone at a threshold of 10 mIU/mL. It has been used by women to detect pregnancy as early as three to five days after an embryo transfer. Because early on in pregnancy hCG levels rise rapidly, a positive result will get darker each day that you test. The closer you are to your beta hCG date, the more reliable your early pregnancy test results will be.
The beta hCG (aka “β-hCG” or “blood pregnancy test”)
Beta HCG is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy and detected in the blood. A beta HCG test is a blood test used to diagnose pregnancy. The beta hCG differs from a home test:
- Whereas a home pregnancy test only tells you positive or negative, a beta hCG test provides the quantitative level of hCG in the blood.
- Urine hCG concentrations are approximately one-half of, or less than one-half of, corresponding serum hCG concentrations. This means that you would have to have twice as much hCG in the urine as the blood test would show.
What level of beta hCG is a good number?
Depending on the facility, an hCG level of less than 5 mIU/mL is considered negative for pregnancy, and anything above 25 mIU/mL is considered positive for pregnancy. An hCG level between six and 24 mIU/mL is considered a grey area, and you'll likely need to be retested to see if your levels rise to confirm a pregnancy.
The beta hCG level is important to checking the growth of the embryo and highly predictive of a live birth. One 2018 study of 177 IVF cycles showed that pregnancies with a Day 13 beta hCG concentration under 85 mIU/mL had an 89% risk of having a first trimester loss and that beta hCG of greater than 386 mU/mL has only a 9% chance.
Read more about the basics of IVF here.