When you are about to embark on any journey, most people want to be prepared for all eventualities. The IVF journey is no different
We all know the basics concerning IVF – the tests, the scans, the injections and then more scans, then egg collection and transfer. But what happens to your body along the way? What should you expect to feel during treatment, both emotionally and physically? We turned to Dr Faesen at Hart Fertility to help us understand the common side effects of IVF. (We must stress though that every person is individual, and each experience is unique, so you may or may not experience any of the following)
The Emotional Reaction
The emotional side effect is probably the biggest eventuality of an IVF journey. The decision to undergo fertility treatment will have been taken following a distressing time of failed natural conception, and then tests to see why you are not conceiving. These tests will hopefully tell you why you are not conceiving, at which point your doctor will advise the right course of action.
As you start your journey, you may experience a really mixed bag of feelings – your body might become full of hope, and fear, and anguish, and panic, and anger, and joy. These array of emotions can leave you utterly exhausted and drained – often putting strains on relationships with your partner, family and friends.
Counselling with a professional who is trained in fertility ahead of treatment Is very helpful, as it will help you manage the emotional rollercoaster throughout treatment and afterwards if it sadly doesn’t work.
The Physical Reaction
Once you start medication, you will experience some changes in your body.
If you are down regulating, meaning the stage when your ovaries are suppressed in preparation for external stimulation, you may feel menopausal like symptoms such as
- Hot flushes,
- Night sweats
- Mood Swings
It can also cause headaches, muscle pain, vaginal dryness and acne. Often, sex is the last thing you can think of, and this can lead to both of you feeling upset and emotional.
Bruising, redness or irritation following the injections
Annoyingly, there is no way around this. Injecting everyday for 7-12 days can cause bruising and irritation. It is a good idea to swap between the belly and the thighs so you aren’t injecting in the same place everyday.
There is also some debate as to whether you should apply ice or heat to the area after you have injected. Ice numbs, and warmth opens up the capillaries, to promote blood flow, so maybe speak to your nurse first, then try ice first and warmth afterwards.
You might bloat
Bloating doesn’t happen to everyone, but it is quite common to have a slight degree of bloating, during and after stimulation, usually before the egg retrieval. It should not cause too much discomfort. The pain is just a little stronger than ovulation pain or premenstrual pain.
OHSS stands for ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. It is a side effect from the fertility drugs used in IVF that can develop several days after egg retrieval, or in very early pregnancy.
Drugs are used to stimulate egg production and in some women, this can cause the ovaries to go into overdrive and produce too many egg sacs (follicles).
When this happens, the over-stimulated ovaries swell up and release oestrogen-rich chemicals into the bloodstream and this leaks into your body. The fluid can enter your abdomen and, in severe cases, into the space around the heart and lungs. OHSS can affect the kidneys and liver, too. It is a serious yet rare complication
The good news is that most women with OHSS have mild symptoms (pain, diarrhoea, nausea, headache and hot flushes) and can be treated easily.
If you feel any of the symptoms we have mentioned, speak to your nurse or doctor.
Any kind of hormonal treatment that results in an imbalance can affect the skin. Some women have said that they have experienced acne, as you might do when you have your period
Others who have been using Clomid or letrozole, have said that they have experienced skin redness. This can occur from elevated estrogen levels.
Some women experience nausea during their IVF treatment. Speak to your nurse if your nausea doesn’t ease or becomes worse.
As with the changes in your skin, comparable with the way your skin changes leading up to and during your periods, your breasts might feel slightly tender too.
All of the above side effects can be managed by speaking to your consultant, fertility nurse or counsellor. If you have any questions or concerns about any of the above, or any side effects that we haven’t covered, please do get in touch with the team at Hart, or by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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