Does IVF Bloating Go Away and How Long Does It Take?

Woman holding her stomach in pain

Are you in the middle of IVF treatment, experiencing bloating and wondering how long it will take to go away? After years of the exact same experience, I can completely empathize and tell you what to expect with regard to IVF bloating.

IVF bloating usually goes away by your next period. However, if the treatment was successful and you became pregnant, it can take several more weeks for it to disappear completely. If symptoms worsen you need to speak to your doctor as you may have Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.

In order to feel better about the fact that you’ll be feeling bloated for a while it’s useful to understand why bloating occurs during IVF in the first place and how it goes away, more importantly I’ll give you some tips for coping with it and tell you what to expect if the bloating gets worse and you become over hyper-stimulated.

Why IVF Bloating Occurs

IVF bloating occurs because the medications and injections you’re taking are stimulating your ovaries so that they produce more follicles than during a normal period and causing them to grow. With all those extra eggs than usual, it’s only natural for some women (approximately 1 in 3) to feel bloated. Your ovaries are.

The more follicles you have the more swelling you may experience. Just to give a sense of proportion, in a normal period you’ll usually only have one dominant follicle, but during an IVF cycle you can have between 5 and 40!

In the majority of cases this will be mild bloating and there is absolutely nothing to worry about. At this stage it won’t go away because you want the follicles to grow so that the eggs can be extracted.

Ironically, the most common time women feel bloated is after the egg retrieval. This is counter intuitive as you would have thought that since bloating is caused by having more eggs than usual, once they’re extracted you would feel less bloated. However, once the eggs are removed, blood rushes in to fill their place, the ovaries remain enlarged, and your belly stays big so the bloated feeling remains.

If you’ve been feeling bloated during the stimulation stage, you might progress from very mild and minor discomfort to feeling very swollen. Again, this is all perfectly normal.

During one egg retrieval I actually had 40 eggs extracted! Yes, that is a lot. The doctor at the time told me it was very rare to have so many eggs but that didn’t help me feel better about the bloating. I recall feeling quite uncomfortable and swollen from a few days prior to the extraction and a little after, but it was not unbearable.

How IVF Bloating Goes Away and How Long It Takes

There’s nothing you can do to make the bloating go away or speed up the process of your body getting back to normal. That will occur naturally, and your period helps by releasing all the hormones that caused the bloat in the first place.

If you had just moderate bloating, it’s usually entirely gone by the start of your next period. All the cramping, swelling, bloating and discomfort that you may have felt during IVF treatment tends to disappear around the same time as your body resets itself.

The one exception to this is if the treatment is successful and you have become pregnant. In that case it may take several more weeks for the bloat to completely disappear, although in some instances it can actually worsen before getting better.

Coping With the IVF Bloating and How Not to Make It Worse

While you can’t do anything to make the bloat go away or speed up the process of getting back to normal, there are things you can do to cope with any pain or discomfort. There are also things you need to do to ensure you don’t make it worse:

1. Get Plenty of Rest

This doesn’t mean being confined to bed (although that may be nice) but it does mean you should take it easier than usual. Get plenty of sleep and don’t start that major house deep clean project you’ve been planning for the last two years. You can still go to work, look after your family and do your other routine activities, just be sure not to overdo things.

A woman relaxing with her feet up and a drink

2. Moderate Exertion Only

Avoiding exercise is unnecessary and a bad idea in general. You can still be active, walking or doing some moderate exercise. Just leave all your extreme sports for another time and the heavy lifting for someone who’s ovaries aren’t recovering from being more stimulated than usual.

3. Drink Plenty of Fluids

This is also counter intuitive as you want to reduce the amount of fluid in your body not to increase it by drinking a lot. However, drinking plenty of fluids helps to flush the liquid you’re retaining and is making you swell, and get you back to normal.

4. Eat Nourishing, High-Protein Food

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.

5. Take Painkillers

If you experience a lot of pain, you can take painkillers but not anti-inflammatory drugs that could interfere with your medication.

Resting is very important because too much physical exertion can make the bloating worse and lead to further medical complications including Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

I wish someone had told me in advance what not to do when experiencing bloating! I found out after one hectic day running around town for medications – as my regular pharmacy was out of stock – that I really should NOT be doing that. For subsequent cycles I was definitely more prepared! Meaning that I told my husband that he would now be doing all the running around for me.

OHSS – When IVF Bloating Gets Worse

A more extreme version of bloating is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). It’s important to be aware of what OHSS is and its symptoms because you must contact your doctor if you think you have it so that it can be properly treated.

OHSS is exactly what it sounds like. The medications and hormones you’re taking are supposed to stimulate the ovaries more than usual but there will obviously become a point where this becomes too much. If your ovaries become hyper-stimulated, they will swell and leak fluid into the abdomen or belly.

There are actually three levels of OHSS: Mild, Moderate and Severe. While 33% of women doing IVF will experience mild OHSS and is not too much of a concern, 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

A mild case of OHSS will resolve itself by the time you get your next period and the way to coped with it is as you would with bloating, meaning rest, avoiding excessive physical exertion and drinking plenty of fluids.

If you become pregnant while having mild OHSS, your symptoms could last for several weeks longer and they can sometimes worsen considerably before completely going away. You’ll need to be monitored during this time to ensure that the swelling and fluid buildup doesn’t get any worse.

Because pregnancy can make it worse or last longer, those who are at risk of OHSS or who are experiencing symptoms may have to stop their IVF treatment temporarily. This essentially means not continuing on to the embryo transfer procedure during that particular cycle. Instead your embryos will be frozen for use in a future cycle.

Severe cases of OHSS are managed with, in additional to the above, medication for nausea and pain, careful monitoring of the ovaries and if necessary, hospitalization and the draining of fluid that accumulates in the abdomen.

I’ve only had moderate OHSS, where I experienced bloating and swelling and ended up in hospital for several days for monitoring. This was my very first IVF cycle and it completely took me by surprise. Fortunately, monitoring was all that was required as everything resolved itself.

P.S. Don’t get too worried about developing OHSS. Even if you do get it, it will probably only be the mild form of it and not that much worse than ‘regular bloating’. The important thing here is to know what to look out for, monitor yourself and contact your doctor if things get worse.

Oh, and get pregnant.

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