If you’re in the midst of the two-week wait, implantation is likely on your radar. After conception, it’s the last hurdle to cross before you’re officially pregnant.
But implantation doesn’t always go off without a hitch. In fact, 75% of failed pregnancies are due to implantation failure.
Which raises the question – what can you do to help implantation?
Well, there’s no surefire way to guarantee implantation success. Yet, there are things you can do to create an environment that supports implantation.
So read on to learn what helps with implantation and what you should avoid to support this process.
But first, let’s cover some basics to lay the groundwork.
What is Implantation?
Each month, one of your ovaries releases an egg. This process is known as ovulation.
The empty follicle that releases the egg (corpus luteum), then starts producing progesterone. This thickens the uterine lining, creating the perfect sticky setup for a fertilized egg to attach.
If you have sexual intercourse within your fertile window, fertilization may occur. The fertilized egg then journeys through the fallopian tube toward the uterus.
Implantation is when a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. Once the embryo implants, pregnancy officially begins!
Implantation allows the mother’s uterus to provide nutrients to nourish the developing embryo. But it also causes a cascade of hormonal changes.
Once the fertilized egg hooks onto the uterus, your body starts producing hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). This hormone is what pregnancy tests check your urine for to declare a big fat positive.
But hCG levels build slowly at first. Some sensitive pregnancy tests allow you to start testing as early as 10 DPO.
While it may be too soon to test, your body may send some signals that implantation has occurred.
Signs of Implantation
Here are a few signs of implantation you might notice:
Implantation bleeding: This is light bleeding or spotting that occurs around the time you’d expect your next period. The timing can be confusing! But there are some ways to tell the two apart. Implantation bleeding is usually much lighter than your period, light pink or brown, and only lasts for 1-2 days.
Implantation cramping: Some women also feel mild cramps in their lower abdomen near implantation. These are known as implantation cramps. They’re often described as pricking, pulling, or tingling sensations.
Tender breasts: As progesterone levels rise, you may notice some breast tenderness.
Fatigue: During implantation, your body is going through massive changes inside. This can leave you feeling run down or flat-out exhausted.
Lower basal body temperature: If you’re tracking your BBT, you might notice a slight drop during implantation. This is known as the ‘implantation dip’ and can hint that implantation happened.
For a deeper dive into implantation symptoms, check out the video below:
Keep in mind, many signs of implantation mimic PMS symptoms. And many women don’t experience any signs of implantation at all.
But in case you do have symptoms, it helps to know when to expect them.
When Does Implantation Occur?
Your implantation window consists of the days your uterus is primed to receive the fertilized egg. This window is short, lasting only around 5-6 days.
Implantation usually happens around 8 to 10 days past ovulation (DPO). Yet, it can occur anytime between 6 to 12 DPO.
When an embryo implants after 10 days, it’s considered late implantation. And sadly, it’s linked with an increased risk of miscarriage.
Causes of Unsuccessful Implantation
When an embryo fails to implant, it’s usually for one of these reasons:
- Chromosomal abnormalities are a major cause of recurrent implantation failure. Sometimes cell division goes awry, causing an abnormal number of chromosomes. Down syndrome is one example of a chromosomal abnormality.
- Endometrial receptivity, meaning the uterine lining isn’t thick enough for the embryo to attach. Ideally, the endometrium should be at least 7 mm thick to support implantation. Polyps and fibroids can also make it more difficult for an embryo to implant.
- Hormonal or metabolic disorders including PCOS, uncontrolled diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, or obesity may hinder implantation. Your hormones need to be in a healthy range for successful implantation.
- Infections of the endometrium, such as chronic endometritis may affect implantation. Endometritis is an inflammation of the uterus. It can be caused by STIs such as gonorrhea or chlamydia or changes to the balance of vaginal bacteria.
- Immunological factors may cause the woman’s immune system to reject the embryo. While not entirely understood, some suggest this is due to an imbalance of T-cells and antibodies.
- Thrombophilia is a disorder that causes your blood to clot too easily. Evidence reveals that women with a family history of thrombophilia are more likely to have repeated IVF failure.
You can’t control if or when implantation occurs. But there are some things you can do to set the stage to help this process.
How to Support Implantation?
Here are a few ways to help implantation naturally…
Eat a healthy diet
For pregnancy, what you eat matters. Eating certain fertility-friendly foods may help implantation. Other not-so-healthy foods may harm the process.
Some of the best foods to help implantation include:
- Fruits and veggies: Research shows that upping your fruit and veggie intake has a positive effect on IVF outcomes. Researchers suggest this is because these foods are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants fend off free radical damage, which can harm the reproductive system. So heed your mom’s advice and eat your veggies and fruits!
- Omega 3s: Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help regulate your hormones. Foods rich in omega-3s include fish, nuts, and seeds.
- Progesterone-boosting foods: Certain foods provide the nutrients needed for progesterone production. For a list of them, check out this post.
- Fiber-rich foods: Fiber helps you poop, helping remove excess estrogen from the body. This supports healthy progesterone levels. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, legumes, fruits, and veggies.
Implantation foods to avoid include:
- Processed foods: These are filled with endocrine-disrupting chemicals and trans fats. Both of which can harm fertility. While there’s no evidence these foods harm implantation, it may be best to err on the safe side.
- Sugar: Ditto on sugar. Currently, there’s no evidence sugar affects successful implantation. But high sugar consumption is linked with male and female infertility.
- Red meat: There is some evidence that red meat may interfere with blastocyst formation.
- Foods not recommended during pregnancy: This includes undercooked meat and eggs, raw fish, deli meats, and unpasteurized dairy. These foods may harbor bad bacteria, such as Salmonella.
And being pregnant increases your risk of foodborne illness. Consuming undercooked meat and unpasteurized dairy also increase your risk of developing Listeriosis during the first trimester. This can cause miscarriage during the first trimester.
To learn more about foods that are good for pregnancy and which ones to avoid, check out this blog.
Take prenatal vitamins
Ideally, the bulk of your nutrients should come from food. But since pregnancy puts extra demands on your body, you’ll need extra nutrition. That’s why taking prenatal vitamins is crucial.
It’s best to begin taking prenatal vitamins at least a month before trying for a baby. Be sure to choose one that includes at least 400-800 mg of folic acid. This helps prevent neural tube defects, which are birth defects that affect the brain, spine, or spinal cord.
Focus on mental wellbeing
Yoga in particular is shown to be especially helpful for increasing pregnancy outcomes. But if yoga isn’t your thing, go with whatever helps you relax – whether that’s meditation, journaling, or spending time in nature.
Keep an eye on your progesterone levels
Implantation can’t happen without progesterone. During implantation, the sweet spot for progesterone is between 10 to 20 ng/mL.
This range provides the ideal levels to support implantation and ongoing pregnancy. Progesterone levels below or above that range are linked with an increased risk of miscarriage.
If your progesterone is low, try not to stress. Many progesterone supplements are available to help bring your levels into a healthy range. Speak with your doctor to find the right one for you.
What to Do After Embryo Transfer to Increase Success?
The tips above help implantation whether you’re conceiving naturally or via IVF. Yet, if you’re undergoing IVF, there are some other things you can do to improve embryo implantation.
The IVF process can be exhausting – physically and emotionally. Getting plenty of rest is the best thing you can do to increase the chances of implantation after an embryo transfer.
So after an embryo transfer, take it easy and pamper yourself. Maybe even take a few days off from work. Give your body the rest it needs to work its magic.
Continue your meds
Fertility doctors prescribe hormone medications during IVF to support ovulation and implantation. One of them is progesterone.
Usually, progesterone is started a few days after egg retrieval. This thickens the uterine lining and makes it sticky, so the embryo’s more likely to attach.
Research shows progesterone increases the success rate in IVF cycles. So be sure you’re religious about taking your meds.
Consider embryo screening
As mentioned, chromosomal abnormalities are one of the biggest causes of failed implantation. One way to bypass this problem is to get preimplantation genetic screening (aka PGS testing). This detects chromosomal abnormalities, ensuring the embryo implanted is of good quality.
Evidence reveals implantation and pregnancy rates are higher in IVF cycles that use PGS testing. This can be especially helpful for couples that have had multiple failed IVF cycles or miscarriages.
What Happens if Implantation Is Unsuccessful?
Without successful implantation, it’ll be difficult to get pregnant and maintain the pregnancy. Research shows that hCG levels and the rate at which hCG rises are affected by the day of implantation.
If implantation happens late (after day 10), it can lead to low levels of hCG. And hCG is critical for pregnancy. It’s what stimulates the corpus luteum to boost progesterone production in early pregnancy.
Progesterone helps the uterus grow and nourishes the developing embryo. But it also prevents uterine contractions that may lead to pregnancy loss or preterm labor.
Without enough hCG, progesterone may get too low, increasing the risk of miscarriage. The only way to tell whether an egg was fertilized improperly or implanted incorrectly is with an ultrasound.
There’s a lot of implantation myths floating around the internet. So, let’s clear some of them up…
The jury’s still out on this one. Since sex causes uterine contractions, some believe it may harm the implantation process. But the evidence isn’t clear.
One study showed that couples who had sex during the implantation window were less likely to get pregnant. Yet, other studies contradict this. So, if you’ve had a difficult time getting pregnant, it may be best to err on the safe side and hold off.
Smoking and alcohol are both harmful to fertility. So, you’ll want to avoid them during the implantation window.
Too much caffeine can also affect implantation. So, if you can’t go without your morning coffee, stick to 1-2 cups a day.
NSAIDs (such as Advil and Aleve) may hinder implantation as well. They interfere with prostaglandins, which are needed for implantation. So, steer clear of NSAIDs for now.
Also on the no list is anything that raises your body temperature too high. That means skipping saunas, steam rooms, and hot baths for now.
And while exercise is helpful for fertility, you don’t want to overdo it during implantation. Some evidence shows that vigorous activity may harm pregnancy chances. So, take a break from excessive exercising and aim for gentle exercises such as brisk walks and yoga.
Nope. While being sick is no fun, there’s no evidence having a cold harms ovulation or implantation. Unless you have a fever. As mentioned, having a high body temperature can interfere with implantation.
No again. Despite what you may have seen on social media and mommy boards, no special sleeping position helps implantation. Quality sleep is crucial for pregnancy though. So pick whatever position is coziest for you.
- Implantation is when the fertilized egg embeds itself into the uterine lining.
- Implantation may happen anytime between 6 to 12 DPO. But it’s most common near 8 to 10 DPO.
- Some problems that affect implantation include chromosomal abnormalities and problems with uterine receptivity.
- Certain lifestyle habits may create an environment that supports implantation. This includes eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and checking your progesterone.
- Progesterone medications are often prescribed for women undergoing IVF treatments. This increases the chances of successful implantation.