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Embryo Transfer

Lesson 4 of 5

Improving Your Live Birth Rate Per Transfer

Video Lesson

Written Lesson

Screening the Doctor Who Oversees Your Transfer

Not all embryo transfers are of the same difficulty and not all doctors are equally competent at performing them. A good cycle can be ruined by a bad transfer and so it’s important you understand who is doing your transfer.

First, as you can see below, some transfer cases are more difficult than others and the challenging cases result in lower pregnancy rates. While some patients (e.g. obese patients, those with previous C-sections) more often represent difficult transfers, it’s hard to be certain if you’ll be a hard case and so you want the best doctor available performing your transfer.

Unfortunately, most patients will not have their fertility doctor perform their transfer. We see this especially often in clinics that do over 300 cycles per year and in clinics with an academic affiliation.

As a result, there is a good chance a different doctor at your clinic will perform your transfer. Even within the same clinic, doctors have varied abilities. Below you’ll see how 11 different transferring doctors at RMA New Jersey perform. The best performer has a 16% absolute higher percentage Live Birth Rate (67% vs. 51%) than the least successful performer. Roughly 90% of clinics report they regularly track this data and most tell us these discrepancies are commonplace.

Tactically Improving the Transfer

When the ASRM dug into this issue, they surfaced a set of facts that show best practices are slow to diffuse: 25% of recent fellows have never done a single transfer, the majority of fertility doctors will not ask for help with a transfer, and most clinics do not impose standard transfer protocols on their doctors, even those who fall below thresholds.

To improve standardization the ASRM issued guidelines for how transfers should be carried out. We suggest you ask your doctor early on in the process if they plan to comply with these standards and we recommend you re-familiarize yourself with these leading up to the transfer.

Many doctors believe it’s important to recheck the uterus within a year of the upcoming transfer. Most patients will have had a thorough examination at the beginning of their treatment journey, however, those journeys can last years and in the interim, factors related to the uterus may have changed.

ASRM Transfer Checklist

The Mock Transfer

One subject the ASRM guidelines do not address is the “mock transfer” whereby a doctor does a practice transfer (without embryos in the catheter) so they can measure the woman’s anatomy and anticipate challenges. This can be done weeks, or minutes, before the the actual transfer.

There is little data clarifying if doing a mock transfer helps. One clinic, back in 1990, reported doing a mock transfer reduced the number of transfers it considered “challenging” and improved pregnancy rates. We’ve yet to hear doing a mock transfer causes harm and so we suggest asking your doctor if they think it will help.

Pro Tips

  • Ask your clinic if they follow each of the above-mentioned ASRM best-practices or the best practices of the governing body in your jurisdiction, such as ESHRE in Europe.

  • Ask your clinic if they keep track of live birth rates per transferring doctor, how often it is tracked and what they do with the data.

  • Ask if you are likely to have your doctor perform your transfer. If so, how does his or her live birth rate per transfer compare to the rest of the doctors in the clinic.

  • If you are unlikely to have your doctor perform the (frozen embryo) transfer, ask if you can schedule your transfer for when the best, or better, doctor(s) is available

  • If you are unlikely to have your doctor perform the transfer, ask if they can ensure that the least successful performing doctor(s) won't be handling your transfer

  • If your clinic has newer doctors performing transfer, ask how many embryo transfers they have performed and how their rates of success compare

  • Ask your doctor if doing a mock transfer is likely to help improve your odds of success post transfer