Trying to conceive
Undergoing IVF is a roller coaster of emotions. Here are six things that made it more bearable.
By Sarah Kelsey
Updated Feb 03, 2021
Ask any woman who has been through in vitro fertilization (IVF) what the hardest part of the treatment is. No doubt, she’ll tell you that it was dealing with all the injections and hormones.
When it comes to IVF, there are a lot of needles. After all, the goal of the procedure is to stimulate the ovaries so that they will produce several mature eggs that can be harvested for fertilization by sperm and implanted in the woman’s uterus. How that happens is different for every person—no two treatment plans or expected outcomes are alike.
For me, a 35-year-old woman dealing with egg quantity issues, that meant taking enough hormones to generate 12 to 15 good-sized follicles (18 to 22 millimetres in size). I was told that I’d need to inject myself with one needle with varying hormones twice a day, as well as take a variety of pills. As my eggs matured, I’d have to add one more needle to my night-time routine. My regimen was incredibly strict, and most of the shots had to be given at the same time every day.
It was a daunting process—one I thought I’d never manage—but I got through it. Here are a few key things that helped me through those challenging, stressful weeks.
1. Getting my husband involved
When I was told I’d have to inject myself with multiple needles every day, I almost fainted. I’m fine with getting shots in my arms (vaccines and allergy shots have always been part of my life), but I knew there was no way I’d be able to jab the fatty and muscular parts of my belly, back, buttocks and thighs with a needle myself. I volunteered my husband for the job.
Though he was hesitant at first (he didn’t want to hurt me), it turned out to be a great decision to have him do it. Not only did he feel more involved in the IVF process but it also allowed me to focus on relaxing my muscles while he focused on injecting me correctly.
2. Creating a routine
To ensure that my husband and I knew what to expect, we created an easy-to-follow routine for injections. It helped us stay calm and ensured that we both knew what to do.
- My husband and I would discuss where we would inject the needle: my stomach, lower back, buttocks or thigh.
- We would turn on the radio so that the music would distract us.
- While my husband prepped the needle, I would lie down in a way that was conducive to receiving the shot. I’d often clutch a pillow and count to 100 (and back down to zero) as a way to manage my anxiety. If that didn’t work, I’d sing along to whatever song was playing on the radio.
- I would begin deep breathing when he wiped the injection site with rubbing alcohol.
- When he was ready, he would start counting down from 10 out loud. Once he got to five, he’d jab me, and he would remove the needle by the time he got to zero.
3. Focusing on pain management
Receiving hormone injections can be brutally painful. The needles I had to use were long and thick (as they are for every woman), and they have to be injected into the midsection multiple times a day. The result can be extensive swelling and bruising, so finding ways to minimize pain became a major priority for me.
I had a few friends suggest using ice to numb areas before the shots, but that didn’t work for me. One suggestion from a nurse helped a lot, though. She told us that some of the serums in the needles are very thick—almost the consistency of molasses—and that we could thin them out by running the serum-filled needles under hot water before injections.
We also got some great advice from my naturopathic doctor, Jen Newell. She recommended applying arnica gel, which comes from a sunflower-like plant known for its healing properties, to my midsection after each injection. “The plant contains anti-inflammatory chemicals called sesquiterpene lactones, which help reduce swelling, and flavonoids, which strengthen blood vessels and reduce leakage of blood under the skin that occurs with bruising,” she says. It actually helped with the bruising.
We also rotated the injection site (if we injected my left hip in the morning, we would inject my right thigh at night). This helped keep some of the swelling and bruising at bay, though my entire midsection was pretty sensitive until about four weeks after I wrapped up my treatment plan.
4. Indulging in acupuncture
The last thing most people want to do during daily injections is to subject themselves to more needles, but I found acupuncture incredibly helpful. “Acupuncture is beneficial for reducing stress in a number of ways,” says Newell, who practices naturopathy and acupuncture at the Integrative Health Institute in Toronto. “During visits, all patients have to do is lie down and relax. Quite often, patients will take brief naps or listen to guided meditations.”
The practice is based on the ancient Chinese belief that there is a specific energy flow (chi) through the body. This natural flow can be blocked by stress or negative emotions, which can, in turn, result in negative outcomes, such as weight gain and insomnia. The goal of an acupuncturist is to place very fine needles under the skin at specific points to help re-establish the body’s natural chi movement. “The acupuncture points used are based on the individual’s needs and can be modified depending on how she is feeling on a particular day or where she is in her menstrual cycle,” adds Newell. “Certain points are selected to target stress and reduce stress-induced elevations of hormones.”
While it may sound a little out there to some people, studies have repeatedly shown that the practice can be used to reduce everything from headaches to back pain. One study from the University of Maryland even found that acupuncture can increase a woman’s chances of conceiving by 65 percent. Two or three times a week (depending on how stressed I was), I spent 30 blissful minutes at Newell’s office. I always left feeling calm, relaxed and more optimistic about the IVF process.
5. Getting strict with my schedule
One thing that fertility doctors stress is that injections have to be given at exactly the same time every day (I was told that being off by 15 minutes was fine, but 30 minutes was not) to ensure that hormone levels stay consistent. At first, I told myself it would be easy to ensure that I was home for the needles, but then I lost track of time at a dinner with friends and had to race home in time for one of my very first injections. I was so tense and stressed when I ran through the door that my muscles wouldn’t relax for the injection. It took two tries for my husband to jab me and I ended up with a giant welt on my hip.
After that, I became incredibly strict about my schedule. I avoided making plans with friends an hour before I was due for an injection (I also gave myself about 30 minutes after to decompress from the shot and apply arnica gel). I made sure that my work calendar was blocked after 4 p.m. so that no late-day meetings could be scheduled. I declined events and functions that would conflict with my timing in the evenings. The calendar shuffling was annoying (and not something I was used to), but it only lasted a few weeks and the calm that came with knowing I’d never miss a shot was worth it.
6. Treating the hormonal ride
Beyond bruising and swelling, the side effect that most women complain about is mood swings. I didn’t think I’d experience them because I felt fine until day 5 of my injection schedule, but my general demeanour shifted on day 6. I started to get anxious about everything: I couldn’t figure out what to wear or eat without worrying. My mind started to feel cloudy, like I hadn’t slept in weeks. I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t happy either. I never experienced mood swings like those depicted in books and films—where someone goes from laughing to crying in seconds—but I was definitely off.
To cope, I took small doses of two supplements that were recommended by Newell and approved by my doctor: magnesium and a vitamin B complex. “Magnesium is a particularly helpful supplement during times of stress because it promotes deeper, more restful sleep and a sense of calm relaxation,” notes Newell. “It helps regulate the nervous system and can prevent or reduce feelings of anxiety, fear, nervousness, restlessness and irritability. B vitamins are critical for energy production within the body, as well as mood regulation. Pyridoxine [vitamin] helps manufacture neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which aid in the body’s ability to cope with depression, stress and anxiety.”
I also gave myself a break. I knew the hormonal rush wouldn’t last forever and that the best way to keep my mood stable was to relax. I spent the weeks that I was undergoing injections doing whatever I wanted. My husband and I went to our favourite restaurants, spent weekends watching television or reading on the couch and going for long walks. By giving up control and just rolling with the situation, I found that I could manage my emotions better.
This article was originally published online in January 2019.
This article was originally published on
Jan 08, 2020
How do you cope with IVF injections? ›
- Educate yourself as much as you can. ...
- Afraid of needles? ...
- Pinch the skin at the injection site or pull it taught. ...
- Use ice to numb the site. ...
- Over-the-counter numbing agents. ...
- Try different locations.
- Understand that you're part of the treatment process. ...
- Never get into the blame-game. ...
- Educate yourself. ...
- Ask how you can support her. ...
- Show tangible support. ...
- Don't hesitate to seek professional help when you need it. ...
- Always show her that you're a team. ...
- Respect your partner's decisions.
Most common side effects include redness of the skin over the injection site, headache and nausea. Adverse reactions include allergic reaction. Long term effects include bone loss in long-term users, not significant for the short courses used for IVF.How hard is IVF on your body? ›
For some, there is some level of physical discomfort and even pain with IVF stimulation. Some medications may be in the form of injections that are self-administered daily, meaning there is often pain at the injection site and some anxiety if you are uncomfortable with needles.What is the most painful IVF injection? ›
The more painful shots are the progesterone shots, which you start doing midway through a transfer cycle, when you transfer a fertilized embryo into the uterus.What is the most painful step in IVF? ›
The most potentially painful part of undergoing IVF is the procedure to implant the fertilized eggs back into the uterus. Done a few days after egg retrieval, this feels like a smear test; not pleasant by any means, but nothing to be scared of.What should you not say during IVF? ›
“I'm so excited for you.” When someone is about to start a transfer or an IVF procedure. "I know it will happen for you; I just know it." "You can have one of mine (kids) if it doesn't work." "If you just relax & stop thinking about it, then it will happen."
One of the best things the male partner can do during IVF treatment is just to listen. Don't try to fix it, or suggest solutions, or comment. Just listen with empathy when your wife or partner needs to share her feelings or to vent. She doesn't hold you responsible for making things better.How can I stay happy during IVF? ›
- Be kind to yourself. Undergoing fertility treatments is bound to be stressful at times, both mentally and physically. ...
- Learn how to best deal with your feelings of stress and negativity. ...
- Open up to the right people. ...
- Remember to keep living your life.
If you have IVF, you have a slightly higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo implants in a fallopian tube rather than in the womb. This can cause pain in the tummy, followed by vaginal bleeding or dark vaginal discharge.
What are three disadvantages of IVF? ›
- Multiple births. IVF increases the risk of multiple births if more than one embryo is transferred to your uterus. ...
- Premature delivery and low birth weight. ...
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. ...
- Miscarriage. ...
- Egg-retrieval procedure complications. ...
- Ectopic pregnancy. ...
- Birth defects. ...
The IVF egg retrieval process starts with your doctor prescribing you a series of medications (usually shots) that aid your ovaries in producing multiple mature eggs at once. Retrieving multiple eggs will increase your chances of success because not all eggs will fertilize or develop normally after fertilization.What age is IVF most successful? ›
It's widely known that a woman is most fertile in her 20's. Studies show that women in their 20s and 30s have the most success when getting pregnant through IVF and other reproductive technologies.Do you put on weight during IVF? ›
It's not uncommon for women to gain a little weight during IVF treatments. Hormone injections can affect your weight and also your hunger levels (read # 4).Is IVF hard on your heart? ›
Compared with women who gave birth following fertility therapy, women who did not become pregnant after fertility treatment were found to have a 19 percent greater risk of cardiovascular events, particularly stroke and heart failure.Do IVF injections go in stomach or thigh? ›
Choose Your Injection Site: It is most effective to go where there is fatty tissue and less sensitivity - we recommend the stomach (around or just below the belly button but more than one inch from the belly button) or the top of the thighs. Never inject the same spot more than once to prevent skin irritation.What is the least painful injection site? ›
A ventrogluteal site is the most commonly used and recommended site for IM injections in adults and children of walking age because of the large muscle mass. This site is located away from the superior and inferior gluteal arteries as well as the sciatic and superior gluteal nerves,9 and is also the least painful.Is egg retrieval painful in IVF? ›
Because of the type of anesthesia that is used, patients do not feel any pain during the egg retrieval procedure. However, patients may experience abdominal cramping for a day or two after the procedure.How bad do IVF shots hurt? ›
Most of the medications you will take during IVF are administered this way, usually with an injection pen. The sensation of this type of shot is generally a quick pinching type of sensation. Some medications may give a slight tingling or stinging sensation as they are injected.How hard is IVF on a woman? ›
IVF can be mentally, physically and emotionally painful. In many cases, one of the biggest complaints is bloating and pain some women face during the ovarian stimulation process, where hormones are injected to produce multiple eggs for retrieval.
How can I make IVF less stressful? ›
- Identify your worries. ...
- Examine your worries. ...
- Reframe your thought patterns. ...
- Put a time limit on worrying. ...
- Prioritize communication. ...
- Add self-care into your daily routine. ...
- Get support. ...
- Take it one day at a time.
You may no longer feel control of your emotions, your moods or your reactions to things. Your body will change – bloating, cramping, abdominal bruising, food cravings, potential weight gain, breast tenderness, an inability to exercise normally leading up to and after egg retrieval – all take their toll.Should you take it easy during IVF? ›
Whether you're intense about your exercise or more relaxed, you should generally take it easy during your IVF cycles. We would recommend sticking to four hours or less of exercise a week.Should I tell my family Im doing IVF? ›
If you don't share, you're not giving those closest to you an opportunity to show that they do actually understand, care or an opportunity to show support. Telling friends about infertility problems can help when potentially uncomfortable situations arise, such as baby showers or people making inappropriate comments.Is IVF hard on marriage? ›
Although IVF is often successful, the process can be stressful, isolating, and psychologically exhausting for many couples — the very thing that comes so naturally and easily to most others requires medical intervention, multiple rounds of treatments, and enormous dedication.Can I do housework during IVF? ›
Continue a routine normal life as far as possible. As stated before, one should try to be as normal as possible after Embryo Transfer. Going for walks, going to work, doing the normal chores at home etc. are all recommended.How do men feel during IVF? ›
Some men note that they feel like not much more than a sperm donor throughout the IVF experience. “For a lot of guys, finding the time to get away from work and other commitments to accompany their partner to appointments can be quite challenging, depending on what industry they're in,” Dickinson says.Is IVF mentally draining? ›
Research has found that undergoing the process of assisted reproduction or in vitro fertilization is linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression and stress hence, IVF can be mentally and financially draining and can lead to complex emotions like grief and guilt.Why is IVF emotionally stressful? ›
Going through IVF treatment can be a stressful process. This is because there are many factors contributing to the stress, including the time it takes, the loss of work, the cost involved, the strain on relationships, the effects of the medication and concerns about the process.How do I cope with IVF side effects? ›
- Treat yourself. ...
- Take slow, deep breaths when you're feeling anxious.
- Reframe negative thoughts. ...
- Identify your and your partner's stresses and coping mechanisms.
- Acknowledge what you have control over and what you don't.
In which cases IVF is not successful? ›
Most fertility specialists believe that in more than 95% of IVF failures it is due to arrest of the embryos. Embryonic arrest is quite often due to chromosomal or other genetic abnormalities in those embryos that made them too “weak” to continue normal development and sustained implantation.Who should not IVF? ›
IVF isn't usually recommended for women over the age of 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.Why is IVF a health issue? ›
Risks associated with IVF and ICSI
an excessive response to fertility drugs (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome ) multiple birth (twins and triplets) premature labour and low birth weight. a small increased risk of birth defects compared with spontaneously-conceived babies.
Improved Chances of Conception
Because IVF is a highly controlled process that involves selecting and using only the most viable eggs, this treatment can dramatically increase a woman's chances of becoming pregnant beyond her 20s.
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), is a possible complication of in vitro fertilization (IVF). In this condition, the ovaries swell and fluid leaks into the body. This condition is more common in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome who are going through fertility treatments.Can you do IVF without injections? ›
Natural IVF is In Vitro Fertilization without the use of medications to stimulate ovulation. A Natural IVF cycle is timed with your ovulation cycle. Natural IVF is appealing because of the low risk, lower costs, and fewer injections and fewer office visits, which means less stress.What is the average number of injections for IVF? ›
Depending on the course of specific treatment and cycle, a patient may receive up to 90 shots per cycle with a frequency of 1–2 injections per day.How many rounds of IVF do most people do? ›
- Women under the age of 35 are the most likely to benefit from a six-cycle regimen.
- Women 40-42 (using their own eggs) had a 31.5% live birth rate at the six-cycle mark.
- Women older than 42 (using their own eggs) had a <4% live birth rate at the six-cycle mark.
If you're scared to do IVF, brainstorm rewards to motivate you through the process. A luxurious coffee order, a beautiful bouquet of flowers, or lunch with a friend can keep you focused along the way. Every successful subcutaneous and intramuscular injection is a reason to celebrate!How painful is IVF injections? ›
In the majority of circumstances, IVF injections don't involve much pain. At the same time, it's important to note that pain is subjective. It can vary from individual to individual. This means that someone who is more sensitive may experience a higher level of discomfort than someone who is less sensitive.
How did you feel after IVF trigger shot? ›
Side effects of the hCG injection will mimic pregnancy. Most commonly patients will complain of mild nausea, headaches, fatigue, breast soreness, irritability, abdominal bloating or uterine cramps. Local injection site irritation has also been noted more commonly with the uhCG.What is alternative for IVF injection? ›
The next, most common alternative, which can be effective and for those where regular ovulation is not the issue, is Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). This is also commonly referred to as artificial insemination and involves placing the male partner's sperm inside the woman's uterus.How can I control my emotions during IVF? ›
Discuss ahead of time with your partner your hopes and expectations of each other during the cycle. Consider joining an IVF support group. Make your life as simple as possible. Avoid major decisions, life changes or high-stress work and family situations.How do you mentally prepare for an injection? ›
5 Tips for Surviving Shots
- Distract yourself while you're waiting. ...
- Concentrate on taking slow, deep breaths. ...
- Focus intently on something in the room. ...
- Cough. ...
- Relax your arm.
The 10-14 day waiting period between transfer and receiving the pregnancy test results is often described as the most difficult part of the cycle. Having had daily contact with your medical support staff during monitoring and retrieval, you suddenly are on your own after transfer and just have to wait.How many injections per day for IVF? ›
This medication usually takes the form of injections. These injections can vary from one-two for the entire cycle, to one-two per day.Does drinking water help with IVF? ›
Hydration has even more importance for women undergoing IVF as drinking liquids will keep fluid levels in the female reproductive organs at healthy levels. Consuming liquids will also keep blood vessels hydrated and limit the potential dehydrating and toxic side effects of some forms of fertility treatment.Do you always need shots for IVF? ›
The woman will need daily injections to prevent early ovulation, and a small amount of gonadotropin to support the growth of the egg. There will still be ultrasounds and blood work to follow the development of the follicle.