Women often want to know whether or not IVF treatments are painful. The truth is that everyone has a different experience. People tolerate pain differently. There are also many other details that can affect the level of discomfort or pain that you may experience.
A typical IVF treatment requires you to take various medications to promote ovulation. You also need to undergo egg retrieval and embryo transfer.
While some of the steps involved in the IVF process can cause mild discomfort or pain, your experience will likely vary from the next woman’s. Understanding the main steps of a typical IVF treatment can help ease some of your concerns.
Taking Medications to Induce Ovulation
The first stage of the typical IVF treatment includes the use of special medications to induce ovulation. However, this is only necessary when using eggs from your own body.
The goal of the medications is to help your body produce more eggs per cycle. Unfortunately, these medications can produce several potential side effects.
While the side effects vary from rare to common, everyone will have a different experience. Some of the most common side effects include swelling in your ovaries or mild bloating. These are not major issues. However, they may cause some discomfort.
Retrieving Your Eggs for Fertilization
About two weeks after starting your medication regime, your eggs should be ready for retrieval. Fertility specialists will either use blood tests or a vaginal ultrasound to determine whether or not your eggs are mature.
While the ultrasound should not cause discomfort, some women do not like the needles needed for blood tests.
When your eggs are mature, your doctors will need to retrieve them from your body. In most cases, the patient is sedated before the egg retrieval process begins.
There are several different methods for retrieving eggs. The most common method is transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. A probe is inserted into the vagina to find the follicles. A thin needle is then used to retrieve the eggs.
Abdominal surgery is only needed when the doctors cannot reach your ovaries using the ultrasound. With laparoscopy, a small incision is made near the navel. A needle is then guided by a laparoscope to retrieve the eggs.
No matter which method is used, the egg retrieval process may cause mild cramping. It tends to feel like normal menstrual cramps and should pass within 24 to 48 hours.
Fertilizing the Eggs Does Not Cause Pain
After removing the eggs, the next step does not involve you. The eggs are fertilized using insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which occurs outside of your body.
You do not need to do anything during this stage of the IVF treatment. However, your fertility specialist may recommend preimplantation genetic testing or assisted hatching.
With preimplantation genetic testing, doctors can collect a small sample from the embryos to test for various genetic diseases.
Assisted hatching is used to help increase the chances of successful implantation of the egg. This technique is commonly recommended for older women that have had more than one failed IVF treatment.
Transferring the Embryo to Your Uterus
Transferring the embryo is the next stage of IVF. Like the previous steps, this procedure is performed in a clinic or doctor’s office.
Patients are typically given a mild sedative before the procedure begins. However, the procedure itself is considered painless, other than some mild discomfort.
To transfer the embryo, doctors insert a long, flexible tube into the vagina. This catheter reaches into the cervix and to the uterus. A syringe that contains one or more healthy embryos is inserted into the catheter and injected into your uterus.
After the procedure is completed, you may experience mild cramping. This mild cramping should pass within a day or two. If you experience pain or the cramping persists, you should contact your fertility specialist.
Most women can resume their normal activities after the embryo transfer. However, there are a few minor side effects that you may notice. Besides the mild cramping, some of the potential issues include mild bloating, constipation, and breast tenderness.
You may also pass a small amount of bloody fluid immediately after the procedure. This discharge is from the doctors swabbing the cervix before the transfer.
Intrauterine Insemination May Cause Discomfort
There is an alternative to IVF. In some cases, a patient will qualify for intrauterine insemination. This process does not require egg retrieval or embryo transfer. The procedure itself typically only takes about ten minutes to complete and may cause mild discomfort.
The procedure is a lot like the embryo transfer procedure. With both procedures, a catheter is inserted through the vagina and reaches the cervix. However, instead of placing the embryos in the syringe, sperm is injected through the catheter.
The intrauterine insemination procedure carries a minor risk of infection. The infection risk comes from the fluids that get transferred during the procedure. These infections are typically rare, minor, and easily treatable.
Conclusion – IVF Treatments Are Not Painful
That covers the basic steps of a typical IVF treatment. The worst discomfort occurs during egg retrieval and transfer. However, the most common issue is mild cramping. Some people also experience side effects from the ovulation medications.
If the treatment is successful and you become pregnant, the only other pain or discomfort that you should experience is related to a normal pregnancy. You may experience back pain, morning sickness, and swollen feet.
Everyone has a different experience with IVF treatments. While the risks of side effects and pain are minimal, some people do experience pain. The skill of the doctors, your current health, your pain threshold, and random chance all a play role in whether or not the treatment is painful.
The bottom line is that fear of pain should not dissuade you from pursuing IVF treatment. If you are having difficulty conceiving naturally, IVF may provide a suitable solution.
If you have any concerns about discomfort or pain, make sure that you discuss these fears with your fertility specialist. They can address your specific concerns and help put your mind at ease.
Your specialist will walk you through each stage of the IVF treatment process. When you understand how these treatments work and how they may increase your chances of getting pregnant, you will be less likely to worry about the potential for pain.