In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most fruitful scientific procedures ever created. It helps women, who are otherwise struggling with infertility, to get pregnant under the care of a fertility specialist. If you are interested in getting IVF treatment, you may be concerned about the physical toll it will take and how it will feel. Is an IVF procedure painful?
Romper asked Dr. Edward Marut of Fertility Centers of Illinois, who says that the IVF cycle involves five phases — follicle stimulation, egg retrieval, fertilization, embryo transfer, blood test and ultrasound. Out of all of them, three of these phases — follicle stimulation, egg retrieval, and embryo transfer — may come with a minimal amount of pain.
Marut says that when it comes to stimulating follicles in the ovaries in order to retrieve your eggs for IVF, you have to take follicle-stimulating drugs that require subcutaneous injections two to three times a day for about eight to 12 days, and are usually self-administered. "They are described as bee stings by some, and even less by others," Marut explains, "and most women get the hang of it quickly, surprised at how little pain they feel."
He notes, however, that sometimes women are prescribed more painful intramuscular progesterone injections, but they can often be avoided by substituting vaginal gel or inserts, which trade messiness for pain.
The egg retrieval phase, according to Marut, is done under sedation, so there is no perception or memory of the 15 to 20 minute procedure. He says that your ovaries may certainly be sore for a day or two, but the pain is usually relieved by simple Tylenol, or Tylenol with codeine if necessary. If there are a lot of eggs, the ovaries will be large for at least a week, and pain medication may still be required for a longer time. According to Marut, it's also common for women to experience cramping and bloating after egg retrieval, and at most, they would need to take a day or two off of work, but it could be longer if there is over-stimulation. With an experienced physician administering the right medicine, however, Marut notes that this problem of over-stimulation can be avoided.
He also tells Romper that the embryo transfer phase is often described as painless and is very similar to what an intrauterine insemination feels like. If an IVF cycle results in pregnancy, then a woman would start feeling pregnancy symptoms, which is a totally different (and happy) story.
"Women should not worry about the pain associated with IVF," Marut says. "It is more important to find a physician that you trust, and a practice that is the right fit."
Everyone has different tolerances and thresholds for pain, or what they find painful. If you're planning to undergo IVF treatment, talk to your fertility specialist about every detail of the procedure, so that you know what to expect. (Which will hopefully lead to you expecting.)