Many women at the start of their fertility journey wonder, “Is IVF painful?” It’s a natural question to ask, particularly considering that the most common things associated with IVF are those dreadful needles!
Whether you are in the early research stages of IVF or about to begin your first cycle, you may wonder, “Does IVF hurt?” You wouldn’t be the first to ask this question. In fact, as someone who has done it twice, I am willing to bet that most women who have undergone the process at least wondered the exact same thing before they started. As a two-time IVF mama, someone who has ACTUALLY gone through the process, I’m hoping to shed some light on this question.
If you’re in the preliminary IVF research phase, I recommend starting with Questions to Ask Your Fertility Doctor at Your Consultation. If you’re in the early days of hormone injections in your IVF cycle, be sure to check out Fertility Tips: How to Improve Egg Quality for IVF, What to Expect on IVF Egg Retrieval Day, 9 Tips for Easier PIO Shots in IVF and IVF Egg Retrieval Recovery Essentials, as your retrieval will come before your embryo transfer, whether you are doing fresh or frozen!
What is IVF?
In short, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a type of assisted reproductive technology used to help couples struggling with infertility to conceive a child. In IVF, eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries after being stimulated with hormones, and then fertilized with sperm in a lab dish. Any healthy embryos that result from this process are then transferred back into the woman’s uterus in hopes of implantation and pregnancy.
Is IVF Painful?
IVF is not painful, per se, but it can cause some level of discomfort. Levels of pain or discomfort experienced can vary among individuals. It’s important to remember that each person’s response to IVF will be different. What one may consider to be painful or uncomfortable may not be to someone else. We all have varying tolerance levels.
During the initial stages of IVF, the ovarian stimulation phase, women may experience some discomfort but shouldn’t feel concerning levels of pain. This phase involves taking fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. These medications are delivered via daily injections, which can be uncomfortable, particularly if you have to take progesterone in oil shots after your embryo transfer (if this is you, here are some tips for easier PIO injections). This is because PIO shots are done in your backside instead of your abdomen, and with a much larger needle than your initial round of stims. Additionally, some side effects of injections may include some bloating, mild cramping, and breast tenderness.
Your egg retrieval will likely cause the most discomfort in the whole process, but it is temporary, with recovery only lasting a few days. The egg retrieval process is done under sedation, during which a thin needle is inserted through the vaginal wall to extract eggs from the ovaries. Some women may experience cramping or spotting over the following days, while others may feel back to normal right away!
Personally, I didn’t feel like myself for a few days following my egg retrieval. If you are concerned about the days following your procedure, here are some egg retrieval recovery essentials to help you out!
Are IVF Injections Painful?
IVF injections may pinch or sting, particularly in the first few days as you get used to administering them, but they shouldn’t cause outright pain. And, the more accustomed you get to injecting yourself (or being injected), the less bothersome they will feel over time. Eventually, they may just feel like another part of your day.
Some IVF injection side effects that I experienced include:
- Soreness and bruising at the injection site
- Itchiness at and around the injection site
- Breast tenderness
Some stims may cause an uncomfortable itching sensation, which I experienced with Cetrotide both cycles. It left behind a patchy red rash that resolved itself relatively quickly.
If you do experience pain with IVF injections, I would recommend keeping detailed notes and consulting your doctor as it could be a sign of a complication. If you are feeling pesky discomfort, consider using a numbing cream or an ice pack.
Is the embryo transfer painful?
I would compare the embryo transfer to a pap smear, which may be uncomfortable to some but at this point, will likely be unsurprising. You may experience some mild cramping post-transfer, not unlike menstrual cramping.
I would say the most uncomfortable part of an embryo transfer would be waiting for it to begin, because it is recommended that you arrive with a full bladder. This helps with the accurate placement of the embryo.
My second transfer was particularly uncomfortable because my fertility team was an entire HOUR behind schedule, so I had to partially relieve myself several times and then top off with more water!
Which is more painful, IUI or IVF?
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is generally less invasive than IVF, and therefore largely considered to cause less discomfort.
Overall, while IVF can involve some discomfort, the pain is often mild and manageable. It is important to discuss any questions or concerns with your healthcare provider throughout treatment.