Women who are undergoing IVF treatment receive fertility drugs to promote the production of additional eggs.
The eggs are then removed, and any viable embryos that have developed can subsequently be implanted into the uterus. But is IVF painful?
IVF is painful on a moderate scale, with some women experiencing cramping and pressure in their abdomen.
Each stage of the IVF process may involve a tolerable amount of discomfort.
Some women report the IVF process being no more and often times much less painful than their monthly menstrual cramps.
One way to conquer fear is to equip ourselves with knowledge. I find that when I’m not in the know with things, my imagination goes to places it shouldn’t and I imagine the worst.
Here we will go over each step of the IVF process so you have a better idea of how painful or not painful each step of the IVF process can be.
Ovulation Induction & Ultrasound Monitoring
Instead of the solitary egg that ordinarily develops each month, the ovaries are stimulated to generate numerous eggs at the beginning of an IVF cycle using synthetic hormones.
Because some eggs won’t fertilize or develop normally after fertilization, many eggs are required.
A variety of medications may be used in your fertility treatment.
Ovarian Stimulation Medication
You can be given an injectable medicine that contains follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), or a combination of both to activate your ovaries. These drugs encourage the simultaneous development of several eggs.
Oocyte Maturation Medication
You will be prescribed human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) or other drugs to help the eggs develop when the follicles are prepared for egg retrieval, which typically occurs after eight to 14 days.
Prevent Premature Ovulation Medication
These drugs stop your body from prematurely releasing eggs in development.
Medication to Prepare the Lining of the Uterus
Your doctor may advise you to start taking progesterone supplements to prepare your uterine lining for implantation on the day of egg retrieval or at the time of embryo transfer.
IVF Fertility Drug Side Effects
The dangers and side effects of fertility drugs vary depending on the treatment you’re taking. Contrary to injectable fertility treatments, oral fertility medications (such as Clomid or letrozole) have fewer negative effects. like gonadotropins or GnRH agonists and antagonists.
Fertility drug side effects commonly experienced:
- Upset stomach
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
The most frequent side effects of fertility drugs include multiple pregnancies (such as twins, triplets, or more) and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). These are the most typical side effects and risks; there are others as well.
In general, fertility medications work well and sometimes perform miracles. Nevertheless, it’s critical to understand what may go wrong and how to perhaps reduce your risks of difficulties.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
An excessive reaction to too many hormones is known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Women who use injectable hormone medicines to promote the production of eggs in the ovaries typically experience it. The ovaries become uncomfortable and swollen as a result of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
Women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) or ovulation induction using injectable drugs are at risk of developing OHSS. Less frequently, OHSS occurs with reproductive treatments that use oral medicines like clomiphene.
The severity of the illness will determine how it is treated. In moderate cases, OHSS may get better on its own, but in severe situations, hospitalization and further care may be necessary.
Are IVF Injections Painful?
Contrary to popular belief, IVF injections don’t hurt that badly. Due to the tiny needles, the injections are comparatively painless. Anxiety is mostly responsible for apprehension. In reality, IVF fluid administration needles are made to be as painless as possible.
IVF Injection Side Effects
The following are typical hCG injection adverse effects:
- Hot flashes
- Fuzzy vision
- Breast sensitivity
- Slight bruising at the injection site
The following are frequent adverse effects of injectable IVF drugs such as Menopur, Gonal-F, Luveris, and Follistim:
- Ovarian hyperstimulation may be the cause
- Extremely seldom births with multiples
- Ectopic conceptions
- Blood blisters at the injection site, only occasionally
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IVF Egg Retrieval
Egg retrieval can be done in your doctor’s office or a clinic 34 to 36 hours after the final injection and before ovulation.
You’ll be sedated and given painkillers for egg retrieval.
The most common type of retrieval is transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. Your vagina is probed with an ultrasound device to find follicles. The eggs are then extracted by passing a small needle into the vagina and into the follicles using ultrasound guidance.
An abdominal ultrasound could be utilized to guide the needle if transvaginal ultrasound can’t reach your ovaries.
Through a needle attached to a suction tool, the eggs are extracted from the follicles. Several eggs can be extracted in around 20 minutes.
Cramps are to be expected and a sense of pressure or fullness following egg retrieval.
A nourishing liquid (culture medium) is used to incubate mature eggs. Sperm and healthy, mature eggs will be combined in an effort to develop embryos. However, not every egg will necessarily become fertile.
Is Egg Retrieval Painful?
Although the oocyte or egg retrieval technique is thought to be safe and successful, individuals may experience significant discomfort. Punctures to the ovarian capsule and vaginal wall, as well as any required manipulation of the ovaries, are the major causes of the discomfort.
The introduction of improved needle designs and advancements in ultrasound technology may help patients experience less discomfort during this treatment.
With ultrasonography, oocyte retrieval is quicker, less invasive, and easier for surgeons to do than with prior laparoscopic techniques.
For patients undergoing a retrieval process, transvaginal ultrasonography also enables medical professionals to employ a wider range of pain management techniques.
IVF Egg Retrieval Risks
The likelihood of major issues during egg retrieval is quite low because the treatment is performed with ultrasound guidance and the needle is visible on the ultrasound.
The egg retrieval procedure carries several risks, including:
- Pelvic and ovarian infections
- Damage to the uterus, colon, bladder, ovaries, or major blood arteries.
Yet as stated above, with the use of ultrasound guidance, these risks are extremely limited.
Learn the things you should not do after an IVF transfer.
IVF Sperm Retrieval
A semen sample must be given at your doctor’s office or clinic on the morning of egg retrieval if you’re utilizing your partner’s sperm. Usually, masturbation is used to get the semen sample.
It is occasionally necessary to utilize additional techniques, such as testicular aspiration, which involves using a needle or surgical procedure to remove sperm straight from the testicle.
Sperm from donors can also be utilized. In a laboratory, semen fluid and sperm are separated.
There are two methods used for fertilization of the egg:
- Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): Healthy sperm and mature eggs are combined during traditional insemination, and they are then incubated overnight.
- Conventional Insemination: Each mature egg is immediately injected with one healthy sperm during ICSI. When semen quantity or quality is an issue, or if fertilization efforts during previous IVF cycles were unsuccessful, ICSI is frequently performed.
Other procedures may be recommended by your doctor depending on your specific circumstances.
- Preimplantation Genetic Testing: Embryos are left to develop in the incubator for around five to six days, or until a small sample can be taken and examined for certain genetic disorders or the right number of chromosomes. It is possible to transfer embryos to your uterus that do not have chromosomes or genes that are impacted. Preimplantation genetic testing can lessen but not completely eliminate the danger of a parent passing on a genetic disorder. Testing throughout pregnancy could still be advised.
- Assisted Hatching: An embryo “hatches” from its surrounding membrane (zona pellucida) about five to six days after fertilization, enabling it to implant into the lining of the uterus. Your doctor could advise assisted hatching, a procedure in which a hole is cut in the zona pellucida shortly before transfer to aid the embryo in hatching and implanting, if you’re an older woman or if you’ve had several unsuccessful IVF efforts. The procedure of assisted hatching can stiffen the zona pellucida, which is beneficial for eggs or embryos that have previously been frozen.
How much cramping is normal after an IVF procedure and what does it mean?
IVF Embryo Transfer
Embryo transfer typically happens two to five days following egg retrieval and is performed in a clinic or at your doctor’s office.
- A moderate sedative may be administered to you. Even though the operation is mostly painless, you can feel a little discomfort.
- The medical professional will place a catheter—a long, thin, flexible tube—into your vagina, past your cervix, and into your uterus.
- The catheter’s tip is connected to a syringe that holds one or more embryos suspended in a little volume of fluid.
- The doctor injects the embryo or embryos into your uterus using a syringe.
Successful egg retrieval will result in an embryo implanting six to ten days later in the lining of your uterus.
Is Embryo Transfer Painful?
The embryo transfer procedure is remarkably reminiscent of a vaginal ultrasound or pap test. In the days following the procedure, the majority of women only feel light to moderate cramping.
Healthy embryos are inserted into the uterus during the embryo transfer stage. You will take progesterone and estrogen every day prior to this to get your body ready for pregnancy.
There is no anesthetic used during the embryo transfer phase. To guarantee correct embryo implantation and to make it simpler to access the transfer catheter, it is advised to attend this procedure with a full bladder.
What Are the Risks of Embryo Transfer?
Transferring embryos has relatively little danger in and of itself. These hazards are mostly brought about by increased hormone stimulation, which raises the possibility of things like blood clots obstructing blood vessels.
Additionally, if anesthesia is used, the woman may develop infections, changes in her vaginal discharge, bleeding, and anesthetic-related problems. Miscarriage risk is comparable to that of natural conception.
The likelihood of multiple pregnancies is the biggest danger associated with embryo transfer. When several distinct embryos connect to the uterus, this happens.
This is more prevalent in pregnancies resulting from IVF than those resulting from normal conception, and it may raise the chance of stillbirth and infants born with impairments.
Success Rates of Embryo Transfers
The success rates of frozen and fresh embryo transfers as well as their advantages have been hotly contested topics. Many fertility doctors and healthcare providers claim that using frozen embryo transfers via assisted reproductive technology results in a greater pregnancy success rate than using fresh embryos.
Success rates, nevertheless, aren’t the sole deciding element. Choosing a fresh embryo transfer versus a frozen one may be a better option for you, depending on your circumstances.
Let’s discuss the factors to take into account while choosing between transferring fresh or frozen embryos throughout your IVF process.
When frozen embryos are used during the embryo transfer rather than fresh embryos, several fertility clinics and the CDC have seen better success rates. Here is what we discovered:
- According to a 2018 New England Journal of Medicine study, frozen embryo transfers resulted in increased live birth rates for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)-related reproductive problems.
- Research was also published in the British Medical Journal. Based on the women’s regular menstrual patterns and gonadotropin-releasing hormone levels, they did not discover any increased rates of continued pregnancy or live birth in FET users.
Contrary to what was previously stated, research also indicated that using high-quality, viable embryos on older women during embryo transfers had no negative effects on implantation or live birth rates.
How much cramping is normal after an IVF procedure and what does it mean?
Grief After An IVF Failure
It is quite difficult to recover from a failed cycle, and you lament the loss. a loss of future life that you had imagined, a loss of hope, and a loss of a priceless embryo.
If the outcome is bad, you may have many questions about why it didn’t work, what I might have done differently, what to do next, when I can start over, and what else we can try.
Unfortunately, the assisted conception facilities are frequently booked, so it may take a long time before you can schedule a follow-up session to receive clarification.
While coping with the emotions of IVF failing, it is challenging to wait even longer. Most men and women were still processing and had not adjusted to childlessness three years after the conclusion of IVF therapy, showing that the grief process was unfinished.
Women’s reactions to unsuccessful IVF were characterized by sadness, but males assumed a supporting role and did not show emotion.
How to Cope with Grief After a Failed IVF
Everyone has their own way of getting through grief and loss. Here are some ideas if you find yourself having a difficult time getting through an IVF loss:
- Plan some enjoyable activities to do with your close friends, family, and/or spouse. You’ll have something to look forward to as well as the opportunity to spend time with the people you care about. Select encouraging company so that they won’t deplete your energy or fail to comprehend your distress.
- Attend support group gatherings or sign up for a group online. Other nice folks who understand precisely what you are going through will assist you.
- Pose inquiries. Find out the answers to all your concerns so you may feel well informed and equipped to decide on your next course of action, whether it be another round of IVF, a break from the demanding nature of fertility treatment, or looking into other parenting options.
- Give yourself time to mourn. Don’t fight your sadness if it arises; it’s entirely normal and okay to feel that way. It is recommended to talk to a counselor for extra help if this persists for some time and you experience regular depression.
- Ensure your own well-being. Spend some time caring for your bodily and mental needs. Try something fun that you want to do to unwind and feel good. Make time for the activities that give you energy and make you feel emotionally stronger.
- Spend some alone time talking with your partner about how you are both feeling about the outcome. What do you want to learn and what do you want to do after that. Spend time interacting and helping one another.
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Are IVF Pregnancies More Complicated?
When compared to women who gave birth naturally, women who had infertility treatment—especially in-vitro fertilization—were nearly 40% more likely to develop a serious pregnancy complication.
There is an increased risk of significant pregnancy issues if you are over 40 and pregnant with twins or triplets.
IVF and Birth Defects
According to UCLA research, in vitro fertilization (IVF) may considerably increase the chance of birth malformations, including those affecting the eyes, heart, reproductive organs, and urinary system.
IVF linkages to birth malformations are little understood, the researchers added, despite IVF use growing in the US. Pediatric surgical treatment is largely focused on treating birth abnormalities, which consumes a huge amount of financial resources.
Even after adjusting for maternal variables, it has been discovered that birth abnormalities are much more common in children born through IVF than in those born spontaneously (9.0 percent vs. 6.6 percent).
IVF babies specifically showed higher rates of the genitourinary system (5.0 percent vs. 3.0 percent), heart (5.0 percent vs. 0.2 percent), and eye abnormalities (0.3 percent vs. 0.2 percent) (1.5 percent vs. 1.0 percent).
IVF and Miscarriage
IVF can lead to miscarriage. In fact, it happens just as frequently in spontaneous pregnancies as a loss. And because older women frequently try IVF, losses can be a terrible disappointment for them. One in five pregnancies at age 30 terminates in miscarriage. It’s one in two by the age of 42.
IVF and Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy, which affects 1.5–2.1% of patients undergoing in-vitro fertilization, is the primary cause of maternal morbidity and death during the first trimester and the prevalence rises rapidly with assisted reproductive technology (ART) (IVF).
Due to the potential for severe maternal morbidity, abdominal ectopic pregnancy is an uncommon but clinically relevant kind of ectopic pregnancy.
There has been research into risk factors for ectopic pregnancy following IVF, but little is known about risk factors specific to abdominal ectopic pregnancy.
- Advanced Fertility Care
- Mayo Clinic
- Very Well Family
- Standford Children’s Health
- Medical News Today
- Pub Med
- UCLA Health
- Biomed Central
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.