Is IVF Painful?

Pain is a very subjective feeling because what is painful for one may not be as painful for the other. Patients who have undergone IVF or ICSI procedure say that it is mentally more painful than physically.

Firstly you need to understand the entire IVF or ICSI Procedure and steps included in it. Please read through the following:

ICSI steps
Pain Point 1: Daily Injections for Stimulation of Ovaries (STEP 1)

Daily injections for ovarian stimulation are either Intramuscular or subcutaneous, or a combination of both.

Read the article on IVF / ICSI Injections for more information on types of injections. These injections are water based and of low volume and therefore relatively less painful. Subcutaneous injections are given just below the skin with a very thin needle, can be self administered (Similar to insulin injections taken by diabetics) and are the least painful. Usually the pain is tolerable and ice can applied to relieve minimal discomfort over the injection site.   

WHEN TO CONTACT CLINIC

Slight bruising or bluish discoloration over the injection area is common and not to worried about. Usually injections do not cause any major problems but if you have any concerns, please contact your IVF specialist.

Pain Point 2: Egg Retrieval / Oocyte Retrieval / OPU (STEP 2)

Ovum Pick Up or Egg Collection is done under General Anaesthesia, hence during the procedure there is no pain, however once you regain consciousness after the procedure, it is normal to feel pain and discomfort in the lower abdomen. The pain is similar to pain during menses which can be managed with round the clock pain killers that will be prescribed to you for 3 to 5 days.

Advice: Keeping good water intake and regular home made food during these days along with a little bit of rest usually helps to get back to normal.

WHEN TO CONTACT CLINIC

If you think that despite the round the clock pain killers, your pain does not seem to subside and you do not feel any reduction in pain please get in touch with the clinic.

Discomfort Point 3: Embryo Transfer (STEP 5)

Embryo Transfer is very similar to IUI procedure, where a metal speculum is used to visualize the cervix so that the soft silicon Embryo Transfer Catheter can pass through it to reach the uterus. The entire procedure is guided by ultrasonography machine for better visualization of the Embryo Transfer Catheter. The process usually takes less than a couple of minutes. Embryo Transfer needs to be done with a full bladder (for ultrasound) and because of the full bladder, the procedure is a bit uncomfortable.

Usually patients do not feel any pain during or after the Embryo Transfer, however some patients may feel discomfort during insertion of the speculum. Once the speculum is inserted, the embryo transfer catheter passes without any pain through the cervix.

Some patients suffer from severe Vaginismus (Pain and constriction of vaginal muscles during attempted vaginal penetration). This is a condition wherein consummation, transvaginal ultrasound scans and Embryo Transfer are not tolerated. Such cases will need to be discussed and care will have to be individualised. Options of abdominal sonography, Embryo Transfer under general anaesthesia can be considered and easily executed. If you have this fear of pain during vaginal procedures, you may be having vaginismus and please do not hesitate to discuss this with your IVF specialist.

WHEN TO CONTACT CLINIC

If the pain is unbearable, take a simple pain killer like paracetamol 500mg twice a day. If pain does not get relieved, consult your doctor.

Minimal spotting during the procedure is normal. In case of excessive bleeding, contact clinic.

Pain Point 4: Luteal Support (Between STEP 5 and STEP 6)

The medicines given after Embryo Transfer are known as Luteal Phase Support. During this period, progesterone is given as either tablets / vaginal gel / vaginal suppositories or Injections. Progesterone injections are oil based and cause relatively more pain and discomfort than the usual water injections based injections. The oil component also takes longer to get absorbed and therefore it is common to feel bumps at the injection site which may be painful. For those who cannot tolerate progesterone injections, vaginal gel is a good alternative. Results are the same irrespective of route of administration and therefore patients can discuss available options and choose what suits them best.

WHEN TO CONTACT CLINIC

If injection site is very painful it may be because of infection at the injection site. Usually in case of an infection, the temperature over the injection site is increased and it is also associated with fever at times. In such cases, you must contact your clinic immediately.

Sensation of physical pain is not related to mental strength of an individual, hence if you happen to feel any part of the procedure more painful than other’s, it does not reflect on your mental strength. Lastly, even if you feel some pain during the entire IVF process, please do not hesitate to discuss it with your doctor. At times just a little bit of empathy and conversation makes things a lot easier.

Most of the patients who underwent IVF, when asked to reflect upon their procedure say just one thing:

It was worth every PRICK.

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