It’s a good question! And the truth is, there really is not a great deal of pain involved in IVF. It may seem like it but, understanding the process of IVF and what exactly happens may make it seem less daunting! So let’s break down some of the steps of IVF that may cause someone to panic! Before we move on, check out our “IVF Timeline” post on Instagram! We have a step by step layout of what happens in a single IVF cycle, how long each step takes and how much time lies in between the steps!
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Fear of needles?
One of the first steps in IVF is taking injectable fertility medications. These serve the purpose of ovarian stimulation. This is done for approximately 8-15 days. The injections do not seem so bad once you look at the bigger picture- your little bundle of joy that will soon be on its way! But if you have a significant fear of needles, you might want to think ahead of how you plan on administering the injections. Think about whether you will want a support system nearby when you take them and if you will want someone to administer the injections for you. Also try to brainstorm ways to distract yourself during it! During one of my trips to the doctor’s office, my physician told me to start coughing while she gave me the shot. Though I was incredibly confused, I gave it a try. And it worked! It helped decrease the pain a bit.
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This is one of the most important steps of IVF! You need the egg of course! Surprisingly though, it’s only a 30 minute procedure. Additionally, patients are normally given pain medication or sedated. So it should essentially be painless. The procedure is performed by placing an ultrasound probe into the vagina. This is to locate the follicles. A long thin needle is then inserted into the ultrasound probe so that the eggs can be retrieved from the follicles. If Transvaginal ultrasound aspiration is not able to reach the ovaries, an abdominal ultrasound might be used. Because the needle is attached to a suction device, the eggs are able to be removed from the follicles. As mentioned before, this procedure is painless. However, after it is completed it is completely normal to feel sensations such as fullness or pressure or even cramping. If you happen to be feeling anything very severe, it is a good idea to check in with your physician to make sure everything is okay.
This is the other procedure that often worries patients. You may or may not be given a sedative for this procedure but similar to the egg retrieval, it is essentially painless! A catheter is placed in the vagina. It enters the cervix and then the uterus. A syringe containing the embryos is then attached to the catheter and the embryos are placed into the uterus. Mild cramping after the procedure is completely normal. Apart from that you really shouldn’t feel too much discomfort. If you happen to experience any severe pain, certainly confide in your physician.
The pain of waiting
IVF is not a quick and rapid process. An IVF cycle requires time, precision, accuracy and most importantly patience. For example, the injections are taken anywhere from 8-15 days. That’s 2 weeks before procedures can actually begin to be performed! It takes patience to get through that period. Some time between day 8 and 12 (with day 1 being the first day of your period) you are required to take an hCG injection. Approximately 36 hours after the injection is when the egg retrieval is performed. It is essentially three days of waiting and preparing yourself for the procedure. Another slightly difficult time period to wait out is that after the transfer of the embryos. It takes approximately two weeks to take a pregnancy test and know whether it is positive or not. It is crucial to not feel helpless during these waiting periods of IVF. Keep yourself distracted and remind yourself that you have done everything you possibly can. It can sometimes be difficult to push a thought out of your head or to not worry about what the pregnancy test will bring, However, understanding that you have done everything that you can makes it easier.
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What if things don’t go the way I want?
IVF is the work of countless embryologists, lach technicians, clinical staff doctors, nurses- you name it! They say it takes a village to grow an embaby. Each and every person performs each step so meticulously and with great care. Nevertheless, there is still the possibility of an unsuccessful IVF cycle. The emotional burden that comes along with IVF is very real and often misunderstood by those who have never experienced infertility. It involves great deals of stress but requires persistence as well. It is essential that somebody understands that an unsuccessful IVF cycle is not the end of their TTC journey. You can always take control of your TTC journey. Unsuccessful procedures don’t define the journey. Always remember to have a support group who encourages you to keep trying and will support the decisions you make rather than try to make them for you. Additionally, never be shy to reach out to your physicians with questions and concerns. They want what is best for you and having all the information you need is crucial. It is what helps you make the best decision for your TTC journey.
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You are STRONG! Getting through infertility is no easy feat. You’ve got the strength and grit to do it and that is incredibly impressive. Though there is not too much physical pain involved in IVF, there is clearly an emotional stress that is placed on the patient. It is important to keep that in mind when you decide to begin your cycle. During your cycle, ensure you take measures to take care of yourself and your mental well-being. Whether it is a daily walk in the park, a meditation session, cooking up some comfort food, find what puts you in your happy place. And ALWAYS reach out to your physician if you do feel severe discomfort at any point in the cycle or friends or family if your anxiety catched up with you. You’ve got this. And we’ll be here cheering you on.