If you’re on the IVF rollercoaster, the wait after an embryo transfer is a part of the journey that can feel like it’s months long, even though the time frame is technically shorter than a spontaneous pregnancy, since the implantation process is sped along with IVF. By a full week after your transfer, you might be jumping out of your skin and can’t wait any longer, and you may be tempted to take a pregnancy test as early as day 7

Let’s say the home test reads “not pregnant” at that seven-day mark…does that mean the embryo transfer wasn’t a success? The timing around an IVF pregnancy is a bit more complex to understand. Read on for more information from a fertility specialist on what to expect before you test. 

couple celebrating positive pregnancy test results

How soon can you test after an embryo transfer?

When you’re trying for a spontaneous pregnancy (either tracking your ovulation and then trying to conceive or doing an IUI, or intrauterine insemination), the best time to take a pregnancy test and get the most accurate result is about two weeks after ovulation, right around the time of your missed period, explains Sheeva Talebian, MD, board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM Fertility of New York. The embryo forms and takes about five to seven days to implant in the uterus.  But things move a little bit more quickly with IVF. 

The embryo transfer is done on the day of your ovulation, but the embryo has either had three or five days to develop already (to ensure that it’s healthy enough to transfer). Studies show that embryos that have had five days to develop tend to have a higher pregnancy success rate, so a 5-day embryo transfer has become pretty standard (but it’s still possible to have a 3-day transfer under certain circumstances). From that point, the embryo will need a few days to implant in the uterus, and you can take an at-home pregnancy test about nine to eleven days after the embryo transfer to get the most accurate results, says Dr. Talebian. 

woman staring at her pregnancy test stick

Could you get a false negative if you test too soon?

If you take a pregnancy test on the seventh day after your embryo transfer, there’s a chance your home test won’t detect positive results that soon — it has to do with levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG. You could potentially get a false negative if there is not yet enough hCG that pops up on the test, which can set you up for disappointment. Dr. Talebian recommends waiting for a blood test at your IVF physician’s office, about 10 days after the embryo transfer, to confirm a positive or negative reading. “It’s always better to do blood testing because it is more sensitive and less likely to have a false positive or negative reading,” she says. “Home tests vary in their hCG detection rates.”

What about a false positive? 

You also could run the risk of getting a false positive home pregnancy test result if you had a fresh egg retrieval and then an embryo transfer immediately after (this doesn’t necessarily apply to a transfer of a frozen embryo from a previous cycle). The “trigger shot” you administer 36 hours before your fresh egg retrieval may contain the hormone hCG, depending on the type of fertility treatment you’re undergoing, Dr. Talebian explains. It’s possible to detect hCG from that shot in the bloodstream for 10 days after the injection, she says, so testing before about nine days after the embryo transfer might result in a false positive home test. 

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Is it possible to feel symptoms either way? 

You might be trying to analyze your body for any symptoms of potential pregnancy in that week and a half after the embryo transfer, but Dr. Talebian says that symptoms can vary. Some people might report spotting and cramping, certain that they’re not pregnant and getting their period, but end up pregnant, while others report that they don’t have symptoms or spotting and end up pregnant. “It’s very hard to read the body’s symptoms,” especially that early, says Dr. Talebian. 

Though this is easier said than done, the best thing you can do is wait it out. You are welcome to take a home pregnancy test as early as day seven after the transfer but know that you might not get the most accurate result until day nine or ten post-transfer. And the ultimate answer will come from the blood test in your doctor’s office. We’re here for you, whatever the result is, and rooting for a positive. 

Mara Santilli is a journalist reporting on health and wellness and how social and political systems influence the well-being of certain groups, including but not limited to Black and brown communities, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. Her editorial work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, InStyle, Glamour, and more. Outside of reading and writing, she enjoys traveling (especially to Italy), singing, dancing, musical theatre, and playing guitar and piano.