In case you are planning to undergo IVF treatment, it is quite natural to come across the question like is IVF painful? It is one of the most common questions asked by the patient before they undergo treatment, although the answer can be different and can vary from person to person.
Whenever a patient undergoes IVF Treatment, it may be a different sensation experience for everyone. Each patient has a mixed reaction to the procedures and may experience slight pain due to injections. A patient can feel physical discomfort during the process, but apart from that, there is emotional pain, that should not be taken lightly.
Let us understand is IVF a painful process? And even if it is, how can we make IVF medications less painful?
Before anything, let us understand what are the several stages when a patient can experience pain –
- Hormonal Injections — Initially, when a woman starts their injection, she can anticipate the pain for the development of eggs. This is majorly done either using a needle or the injectable pen devices. After some anxiety, most of the women report minimal or no pain.
- When the eggs start developing inside the follicles — Another possible moment could be when eggs begin to grow, and the ovaries begin to enlarge. In both of these scenarios, the lower abdomen pain and bloating starts. This happens when a large number of eggs develop and the ovaries are overstimulating. This is where doctors use drugs to limit the number of eggs that individualize the treatment. For most women, it’s usually a mild discomfort, with no medications required.
- Egg Retrieval Process — The third phase where a woman can expect the pain is during the egg retrieval. The eggs are removed after piercing the ovaries through the vagina using a long needle. There is no pain during this procedure since it is done after giving anaesthesia.
- Embryo Transfer — The next possibility of pain can be Embryo Transfer. Usually, after the egg retrieval, the embryos are transferred back to the uterus. The embryo transfer is a painless process, but you might feel uncomfortable during the insertion of a vaginal speculum. For the majority of women, it is done without any anesthesia as it is not painful, but if a woman is very apprehensive, the same procedure can be scheduled under light sedation.
Now, that we have discussed the possible stages where a patient might feel pain, let us walkthrough, how painful IVF injections can be –
How painful are IVF injections?
It is not essential that everyone finds the injection painful. For most of the patients, the needles are not pleasant, but they are quick, and any discomfort is over in a few seconds. There are two types of injections that you may experience –
- Subcutaneous Injection — Subcutaneous Injection involves giving the medication with a tiny needle that is inserted under the skin. The commonly used fertility medications are Lupron, Gonal-F, Follistim, and Menopur. These injections are usually given on the thigh or the belly. If you have ever seen a diabetes patient giving an insulin shot, you will quickly recognize the type of needle.
Most of the medications during IVF are taken with an injection pen or thin gauge needle, and they leave a pinching sensation. Giving a subcutaneous injection is pretty straightforward and easy.
- Intramuscular Injection — Intramuscular Injection gives fertility medication directly into a muscle, using a longer needle. Usually, Progesterone in oil, HMG and the hCG is provided as an intramuscular injection. These injections are given in the top outer quadrant of the buttocks. Some patients put this injection themselves, while others take the help of their partners. The oil-based progesterone injections can be painful, however, they are seldom required after an IVF procedure. Most women post embryo transfer would be on medications alone, with no injections required.
How can I make IVF medications easier and less painful?
The most important thing to make your injection less painful is to give yourself space and time. The key is not to rush and give yourself enough room.
Although every woman has a different experience, there are some tips which can be helpful-
- Talk to the concerned person — Before your cycle begins, the IVF Specialist should talk about everything to let you know about injections. This is your space to ask questions and make sure you feel confident. They may also make a mark on your body so that you do not have any doubt. In case you are feeling nervous initially, you can ask the nurse to give you an injection and then, it is easier to do it themselves.
- Relax more — This is the most crucial part, if your muscles are tensed up, then you can relax more. Few deep breathing and relaxation exercises before the injection can make a huge difference.
Hence, take long and deep breaths before the injection. This will help you to calm your muscles and mind.
- Apply a heating pad — Apply a heating pad to the injection site for about 10 minutes, and it can help relax the muscle and make the injection more comfortable.
- Cold Ice — Many patients say that applying ice on the area to numb the skin. It will help numb the injection site, which will lessen the pain of an injection.
- Apply Pressure — Try pressing the skin of the injection site with your thumb for about 60 seconds before the shot. When you relieve the pressure, it may be numb. It is advised to flick the injection site with the fingernail until it stings.
- Experiment with injection sites — You might find out that either your stomach or your thigh is more comfortable for intramuscular injections. You must find what works for you and stick with it. Injecting the same area can become uncomfortable, hence, switch timely, if one area is feeling sore.
- Change Positions — Your body position does affect the needle feels as it goes in. Hence, bending over support such as a bed or counter with your weight on the opposite leg from the injection site. It can be more comfortable for some people.
- Try different needles — Generally, finer gauge needles are the most comfortable. Always remember that the higher the number, the smaller the needle. Tiny needles such as 25 to 27 gauge are usually ideal. If your needles are small and you still feel some pain, then switching to a different brand may be more comfortable for you.
Well, irrespective of everything, all pain is worth as long as the patient is going to have a healthy baby. The procedure might be a bit painful, including strange sensations and painful injections, but these all are a part of IVF.
No doubt, IVF is psychologically and physiologically quite demanding. But, the only painful part is the injections and less than 0.1% of patients go into ovarian hyperstimulation.