IVF and Pregnancy Tests

Many couples and individuals going through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) process find themselves waiting anxiously for next steps at every turn.

Whether it’s waiting to understand more about a diagnosis of infertility, or waiting for a doctor’s call to schedule an IVF appointment, the most exciting and sometimes anxious part of the whole process is awaiting the pregnancy test and results.

Many women are anxious around understanding the signs of expecting and when the appropriate time to take a pregnancy test is.

The best way for women and couples to prepare themselves for this phase is to understand how a pregnancy tests and hormones work.  With IVF, the most accurate tests for pregnancy will be administered by your fertility specialist.

In reality, many women and couples rush home to buy an over the counter pregnancy test, and open themselves up to the chance of obtaining inaccurate information.

This article will help you understand:

  1. What an over the counter pregnancy test measures
  2. Why waiting for a beta hCG test is important
  3. How informing yourself about the process will make the wait easier.

How at home Pregnancy Tests work with IVF

Pregnancy tests measure a hormone referred to as Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG).  It is often called “The Pregnancy Hormone”. This hormone can be found through urine or through blood.  This hormone is especially important because it is produced after the embryo is stabilized and implanted in the walls of the woman’s endometrium.

Theprocess of embryo implanting usually takes place around the 6th day after fertilization of the sperm and egg.  After the fertilization of the egg, the zygote slowly starts to slowly emit the hCG hormone. In the beginning, it’s measurements are so small that the hCG levels are not high enough to register on any pregnancy test (unless the IVF process used involves a starter hormone injection).

hCG levels double in amount every 72 hours and peaking at around 8 to 11 weeks of the pregnancy. This is why waiting for this hormone to grow can be agonizing, but at the same time is necessary. The hormone hCG begins with small traces and doubling at this level is still seem extremely low measurements, but by 48 to 72 hours later, the hormone should have scant tracable levels. The key with measurement levels of hCG is to have a rising measurement, so measurements before IVF are important to understand in order to gauge the difference of the test after IVF treatments and approximately 10 days to two weeks later. Testing the “beta-hCG” is the blood test that your doctor will perform after the 10-14 day waiting period.  Beta hCG testing is not only important because it is more accurate than an at home test which only gives you a “positive” or “negative” answer it provides you with a level of hCG that would not otherwise be attainable.  With beta hCG test results, the hormone can be measured as follows:

Blood hCG test result levels:

  • Under 5 mIU/ml: Considered Negative for Pregnancy at this level
  • Between 5-25 mIU/ml: This is an in between measurement, it could mean you’re pregnant but needs to be retested.
  • Over 25 mIU/ml: Considered Positive for Pregnancy!

One single measurement of hCG hormone will not be enough for IVF pregnancies, as the many injections and other factors that go along with the hormone can be temperamental and especially inaccurate when using an at-home or over-the-counter pregnancy test.

Before Using a Pregnancy Test at Home

What is especially important to consider before administering a pregnancy test at home is how your IVF treatment was administered.  Many women are injected with a dose of hCG through the process of IVF already and a miss read of an at home pregnancy test could occur.  This administering of the hormone hCG is often considered part of the ovulation induction, and two popular brands of these hormones are “Pregnyl” and “Novarel” this stage of ovulation through injection can be referred to in the fertility industry as “triggering” or something as “popping” referring to the hormone helping to begin the ovulation stage.

As stated earlier, these injections can cause a disruption in the normal process of the hCG hormone, thus rendering the home tests completely dismissible, ultimately proving to be a waste of your money.

It is likely your Fertility Specialist has informed you of whether or not or how much of a dose of hCG was used as the only cases where hCG is not injected is with Ovum Donation, Embryo Adoption, or Gestational Surrogacy.

In these cases where an hCG injection is not administered, any small trace of hCG in the blood (administered through beta-hCG testing from your fertilization doctor) should you not have had these injections, would be considered significant.

If your fertility specialist has informed you of the process, used it is still recommended that waiting for the blood test and ultrasound administered by your fertility doctor is the best way to determine if pregnancy has begun.  Waiting for the opportunity to take a pregnancy test with your doctor can be frustrating, but it is especially important to understand that the process of at-home pregnancy tests will not be as accurate or diagnostic as waiting for the fertility specialists to administer.

This ultrasound and blood test determine if a pregnancy has occurred.  It should be scheduled approximately 10-14 days after the transplant of the fertilized egg.  The doctor and fertilization specialist recommend this time period for scheduling your official pregnancy test, in order to let enough growth to occur to be detected in an ultrasound and the hCG hormone to test with a significant amount.

Taking a Pregnancy Test at home after IVF

It is imperative to understand that an at home pregnancy test after treatments with IVF will not produce accurate results.  More often than not, a positive or false positive will be the result of an at home test, often these tests will not produce a negative.  If you’re still convinced that taking a pregnancy test at home would somehow calm your nerves, it is important to remember results may show a false positive. A false positive would mean that in fact you are not pregnant, but the over-the-counter pregnancy test is reading the hCG hormones that were injected through the process of IVF process.

The other downside of taking an at home pregnancy test is, it does not accurately measure the amount of the hCG hormone, so even if you are pregnant, and you do receive a positive at-home pregnancy test, you may not be able to understand that this in fact is an accurate positive reading.  Ultimately taking an at home pregnancy test after an IVF treatment, is a waste of money, emotions and builds on the already existing anxiety of the entire process.

Get Help from Your Fertility Friend

What to do while you wait

During this time of waiting, it can be the most difficult part of the process.  After receiving an IVF treatment, it feels as though one whole process is coming to an end and another is just beginning.

It is imperative at this stage to not feel complete with the process yet. Maintain a mental state that helps both you, your potential fetus and your relationship with others, healthy. While it may be easy to fall prey to the at home pregnancy test, or the hCG online calculators, these are not accurate reads of your individual levels and with your doctors understanding of the process, cannot be delivered appropriately to you.

It is important to “keep your eye on the prize” so to speak, eating a well-balanced diet, maintain your health, and while it may be most difficult, act as though you are pregnant.  After IVF, while the chances are still so uncertain, there is still a very good chance you may be pregnant and it wouldn’t be worth it at this point to give up hope.

Every effort you put into believing a pregnancy has taken place will help.