What is single embryo transfer?
With in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, embryo transfer is the last step of the process. By this stage, eggs have been removed from your body, fertilized and cultured in the lab, and are now ready to be placed into your uterus. The amount of eggs being inserted varies depending on what you and your doctor decide, but single embryo transfer (SET) is when one embryo is inserted into your body instead of multiple embryos, which previously was the standard.
The primary reason couples choose SET is that transferring a single embryo will reduce the potential of having twins, triplets or higher numbers of multiples.
Who is a candidate for single embryo transfer?
Your doctor will determine whether or not you are a good candidate for single embryo transfer, but to give you a general idea, if you fit into any of these categories you have a good chance of being deemed a fit candidate.
- If you produce at least five embryos of good quality
- If you have a high likelihood of implantation
- If you are 35-years-old or younger
- If you have normal FSH levels (follicle production in the ovaries) and can easily become pregnant but experience frequent miscarriages
How is single embryo transfer performed?
The process of single embryo transfer is typical of all embryo transfers in in vitro fertilization procedures; however, with this procedure only one embryo will be transferred to your uterus.
If your doctor uses an abdominal sonogram, you will usually be requested to have a full bladder at the time of the procedure as this makes the uterus easier to see on the sonogram. The sonogram will serve as the doctor’s guide as he or she performs the transfer.
To get the embryo into the uterus, a fine catheter will be inserted into your body, which passes through the cervix. Your doctor will use the sonogram or other process to find the appropriate spot at the top of the uterus for the embryo to be deposited.
After the procedure, you will usually rest on your back in a recovery room for approximately two hours. The embryo transfer procedure is typically painless, but you may experience some mild cramping afterwards. Your doctor will assess if you need any medications during the procedure. If deemed appropriate, you may receive an injection of hCG after the transfer, which helps the ovaries produce increased levels of progesterone (an important pregnancy hormone) during the embryonic implantation phase.
What are the risks associated with single embryo transfer?
The principle risk with single embryo transfer is that you will not become pregnant and will need to endure multiple cycles to achieve pregnancy. However, this risk is often preferred over the potentially serious risks associated with multiple simultaneous embryo transfers, which include higher instances of multiple births, complications during pregnancy and the potential to put the health of the mother or children at risk.
What are the results and benefits?
With single embryo transfer, if implantation is successful, you will have a much greater chance of giving birth to a single baby without the additional complications and health concerns that are associated with carrying multiples. While pregnancy may not occur during the first transfer, studies have shown that your chances of becoming pregnant increase with subsequent treatments.
Do insurance companies cover single embryo transfer?
Approximately one quarter of employer-sponsored insurance plans cover or partially cover infertility treatment. There are specific infertility treatment plans that you can purchase or possibly get through your current insurance provider, if the company offers that option.
To determine whether or not your insurance provider will cover fertility treatments, contact your insurance company.
Additionally, you can inquire about financing options, such as payment plans, during your consultation with a fertility specialist.
Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.
Updated: August 6, 2010