9 Things You May Feel During IVF Stimulation & Managing Them

Emotional woman looking out

The stimulation part of the IVF treatment cycle is the most intense and your body will respond in ways it usually doesn’t. Here are nine things you may feel during IVF stimulation and ways to manage them.

1. Your Stomach May Feel Bloated

Approximately 1 in 3 women feel bloated at some stage during the IVF treatment cycle. Your stomach may feel swollen and you may have some abdominal discomfort or pain.

This occurs because your ovaries have been stimulated into producing more eggs than usual. Usually only one follicle, which becomes an egg is produced during a normal period, but during treatment you may have anywhere between 5 and 40. It’s no surprise therefore, and perfectly normal to feel somewhat bloated. It’s actually a good sign because you want more eggs than usual.

After treatment your body will naturally return to normal usually by your next period, but there are ways to manage the bloating and things you can do to not make it worse.

Get Plenty of Rest

You don’t have to completely give up on the rest of your life, but you should take it easier than usual.

Moderate Exertion Only

As with rest, you can still exercise but you shouldn’t be doing anything too strenuous. This is important as too much physical exertion can make bloating worse and lead to further medical complications.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Despite your natural desire when bloated to reduce the amount of fluid in your body and not increase it by drinking a lot, drinking plenty of fluid actually helps to flush the liquid you’re retaining, and get you back to normal.

Eat Nourishing, High-Protein Foods

This is because foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar can make the bloating worse, so you need to be a bit more careful about what you eat.

Take Painkillers

If you experience more than just bloating, you can take painkillers, but not anti-inflammatory drugs that could interfere with your medication, although you should consult your doctor ASAP as you may have OHSS (see below) or other complications.

For more information on IVF bloating and how to cope with it see here.

2. Your Stomach May Feel Worse Than Bloated

There’s something called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) which you need to keep an eye out for and contact your doctor if you think you have it so that it can be properly treated.

This is when your ovaries become hyper-stimulated, swell and leak fluid into the abdomen or belly.

There are three levels of OHSS: Mild, Moderate and Severe. Mild OHSS – experienced by 33% of women doing IVF, is not too much of a concern. It manifests as a worse form of bloating, it will resolve itself by your next period and is managed as you would regular bloating.

Only 1% of women will experience severe OHSS where all the more unpleasant complications including damage to your ovaries, can occur.

Some of the signs of OHSS are:

  • Significant abdominal pain
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Nausea – vomiting in severe cases
  • Reduced urination
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain due to more fluid
  • Shortness of breath – in severe cases
  • Blood clots – in severe cases

Severe cases of OHSS are managed by (in additional to all the steps taken to manage bloating) medication for nausea and pain, careful monitoring of the ovaries and if necessary, hospitalization and the draining of fluid that accumulates in the abdomen.

3. The Outside of Your Stomach May Feel Sore

This is because of all the injections you’ll be taking to stimulate the ovaries. One injection a day for 10 – 14 days and then possibly 2 per day for 3 – 4 days closer to the egg retrieval, all in your lower abdomen, will probably leave the outside of your stomach bruised and sore. With so many injections, your whole lower abdomen may be covered in bruises and it could be difficult to find a new injection site easily.

Since these injections are usually self-administered and since most women doing IVF treatment aren’t professional injection givers, or even occasional injection givers, the first few or 30 that you do may not be as smooth and gentle as you would want, making the bruising and soreness worse.

Even when administered by a professional, injections are not the most pleasant affair. There’s the sting of your skin being pierced, and the pain of the contents being injected into your body, but with so many you soon get used to it and after a while it’s merely uncomfortable.

You also learn to become adept at injecting yourself without inflicting more pain. I promise.

One way I cope with a bruised and sore stomach is to use ice before and after the injection (with before meaning before the alcohol swab). This numbs the area and helps to reduce the risk of inflammation.

Of course, I also alternate between the left and right sides of the abdomen. At least I try to. There are so many injections that it’s easy to forget which side you did yesterday.

4. You May Feel Nauseous

This is one of the side effects of all the hormones you’re taking to stimulate the ovaries. This surge in hormones can make some women feel nauseous to an extent. It’s not a debilitating level of nausea that will prevent you from eating or drinking, but it’s there making you feel slightly queasy some of the time.

I personally used to experience only slight nausea but have found that as I get older it has gotten slightly worse.

It’s managed by resting, drinking plenty and eating well.

5. Your Breasts May Feel Tender

This is also due to the surge in hormones in your body and effects some women more than others.

Personally, I have some days where my breasts feel more sensitive, others when they feel mildly uncomfortable or painful and others when I barely notice anything at all.

The best thing to do is wear comfy, loose-fitting clothing and underwear and avoid any strenuous activity that results in contact with your chest.

6. You May Get Hot Flashes

This happens to some women and is where you get a sudden spike in temperature in the upper part of your body. It can occur anywhere from very occasionally such as once in two weeks to even a few times a day.

Resting, drinking plenty and eating well can reduce the frequency of hot flashes and their intensity.

7. You May Have Mood Swings

During a period, changes in hormone levels cause mood swings. During an IVF treatment cycle, the medications and injections pump your body with more hormones than usual, and the changes could cause you to have even greater mood swings. You may have a rollercoaster of an emotional ride. Some emotions you may experience are:

  • Sadness
  • Happiness
  • Depression
  • Being ecstatic
  • Fear
  • Nervous
  • Anything & everything in between

Again, plenty of sleep and a good diet will help reduce the frequency of your mood swings and the intensity of your emotions.

8. You May Feel More Tired Than Usual

A woman asleep at her desk

There are two causes of IVF treatment fatigue. The first is all the hormones, obviously, but the second is all the extra work you have to do, running around to do blood tests and ultrasounds so that you can be monitored properly and having to be on top of all the medications, what to take, how much to take and when to take them.

This is not a can’t-get-out-of-bed type fatigue but a ‘my-husband-is-now-doing-all-the-housework type of fatigue.

You need to take care of yourself by sleeping enough and eating properly, but also if you can, arrange a support network of family and friends that you can turn to for help.

As long of course, as they don’t make things worse.

9. You May Feel Somewhat Nervous

After all, weird stuff is being done to your body, you have to inject yourself and that can be quite scary, and now you’re having all these new and unusual feelings.

But don’t worry, you have a whole team of experts looking after you, you’ll get used to injecting yourself fairly quickly and you shouldn’t be too concerned with the side-effects which should be gone by your next period.

Unless of course, you become pregnant.

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