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Is IVF Painful? Injections, Abdominal and Lower Back Pain

is IVF painful

IVF treatment is a common medical process, but many women wonder about how much pain to expect before getting started. Maybe you've heard rumors or have seen IVF depicted in movies or television. Not only that, it's also common to experience fear and anxiety about the unknown.

Luckily, IVF is not typically considered a physically painful medical procedure. But there may be some discomfort during certain parts, so it's important to know exactly what to expect in each stage.

Pain During Ovarian Stimulation Injections, Sometimes Known as IVF Shots

IVF injections (also known as fertility drugs) are an important part of the egg retrieval process because the hormones inside kickstart egg maturation inside your ovaries. Having multiple viable eggs can improve your odds of a successful IVF procedure. Injections are administered at home on your own, and your medical care provider will give you step-by-step instructions on how to do it correctly. But you may wonder: Does IVF hurt?

Do IVF Shots Hurt?

The injection needs are actually quite small, so any pain during the daily process should be minimal. If you've had any injections before for other medical reasons, you can expect a similar experience. One common symptom experienced by some women is physical pain at the injection site, which is usually the stomach or upper thigh. The sensation is often described as stinging, burning, or tenderness. But this abdominal pain during IVF stimulation is usually short-term. 

In addition to this brief discomfort, some women experience anxiety or nervousness at the thought of having to inject themselves with a needle. It usually takes eight to 14 days of injections before the eggs are mature. So while it's definitely not a fun situation, it is a temporary one. 

Also keep an eye out for temporary side effects, which often feel like menstrual cycle symptoms such as:

  • Breast tenderness

  • Cramps

  • Bloating

  • Headaches

  • Mood swings

Another rare side effect caused by IVF injections is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This can cause pain, bloating, weight gain, and nausea. While at-home treatment is easy, you should also call our office if you're experiencing these symptoms. 

Abdominal or Ovarian Pain During IVF

In addition to minor sensations at the injection site, women may also experience abdominal or ovarian pain during IVF stimulation. Is IVF painful? Here's what to expect during different stages of the process. 

Stimulation Injections

As mentioned earlier, it's common to experience minor symptoms during the injection period. This could involve tenderness, burning, or stinging where you actually inject the needle. But the sensation shouldn't linger long after the shot and the overall injection process lasts less than two weeks. Before you get started, your health care provider will also teach you how to make IVF injections less painful. 

During this time, you may also react mildly to the hormone medication within the injections. It typically feels like PMS or period symptoms, including cramping pain in the abdomen or ovarian region. 

Egg Retrieval

The second part of the IVF process is the egg retrieval. After taking injections, you'll have developed mature eggs that need to be extracted. During the egg extraction, an ultrasound probe is inserted into your vagina to identify follicles and retrieve your eggs. It involves a thin needle apparatus that is attached to a suction device, but patients are given anesthesia in advance to minimize your discomfort during the procedure.

In the days following the egg retrieval process, you may experience some mild or moderate pain, such as:

  • Ovarian pain

  • Cramping

  • Pressure

  • Bloating

It's smart to rest as much as possible and take over-the-counter pain medication to mitigate these symptoms. 

Embryo Transfer

After the egg retrieval, if intending to carry a pregnancy, the next procedure you will undergo is an embryo transfer. At this point, the eggs have been fertilized in the lab, grown into an embryo and will be transferred into your uterus using an intrauterine catheter. This represents the final stage of IVF. 

A syringe is then used to insert the embryo into your uterus. You might feel some pressure in your pelvic area or lower abdomen, but most women report this as only a mild sensation. It is generally so well tolerated that no anesthesia is necessary.

Back Pain During IVF

Some women may experience lower back pain during parts of the IVF process, but it's not a common symptom. Here's what you might experience. 

Stimulation Injections

The hormone injections can trigger symptoms similar to menstruation or PMS. So while back pain isn't a common one included in reports from IVF patients, it's possible you might experience pain in your lower back if it's a normal symptom during your usual cycle. 

Egg Retrieval

The pelvic pain associated with egg retrieval could also be felt in the lower back as well. It is uncommon, however, and should go away within a few days following the procedure. 

Embryo Transfer

While not a frequently reported symptom, lower back pain could be experienced when the catheter passes through the cervix when transferring the embryo to the uterus. This should be minor and temporary. 

Conclusion: Does IVF Hurt?

While there is certainly some discomfort and potentially mild pain during IVF, it's not known for being a painful process. The most common areas you'll experience symptoms include the abdomen, ovaries, and lower back. But in most cases, the pain is temporary and resolves quickly. 

Anxiety and emotions also play a large role for many women during the IVF process. If you're experiencing any physical or emotional pain, talk to your healthcare team. They can make sure you get the support you need, including a therapist with experience in infertility counseling. You can also try some relaxing and mindfulness techniques, particularly before you head to your next IVF appointment. And if your pain ever feels abnormal, reach out to your doctor right away for help.

Last Updated: Feb 28, 2023 12:00 AM

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