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Is The IVF Process Painful?

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For individuals and couples who dream of becoming parents, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) offers a sense of hope. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), one of the most commonly used forms of ART, has helped many overcome fertility challenges, achieving the family they’ve always wanted.

As prospective patients begin to explore the IVF process, a common question often arises: Is the IVF process painful?

While IVF involves some level of physical achiness, many who have undergone the process describe it as a series of temporary and short-lived moments of discomfort. Further, the degree to which an individual experiences this varies, influenced by factors such as personal pain thresholds, overall health, and the specific treatment protocols used.

In this article, we explore the potential discomforts that may arise throughout the IVF process, as well as provide additional guidance regarding IVF pain relief.

Understanding The IVF Process

IVF is a series of medical procedures used to help with fertility, overcome infertility issues, prevent genetic problems, and assist with conception. The process involves fertilizing an egg outside the body (in vitro) and then implanting the fertilized egg, or embryo, into the uterus.

The steps involved in the IVF process typically include:

Ovarian stimulation: Fertility medications are administered to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This usually takes about 7-14 days.

Egg retrieval: Under sedation, a thin needle is inserted through the vagina to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries.

Fertilization: A semen sample is then obtained from the male partner or a donor. The retrieved eggs are fertilized with sperm in a laboratory dish or through intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected directly into the egg. The fertilized eggs are then monitored in the laboratory for several days to ensure proper development.

Embryo transfer: A selected embryo or embryos are transferred into the uterus using a thin catheter inserted through the cervix.

Pregnancy test: Approximately two weeks after the embryo transfer, a pregnancy test is performed to determine if the procedure was successful.

It’s important to note that the IVF process can vary slightly depending on individual circumstances and the specific protocols used by your fertility team and clinic.

Is Egg Retrieval Painful?

The egg retrieval step is performed under light sedation to ensure that any potential discomfort is reduced.

During this quick procedure, which usually takes no more than 5-8 minutes, you may experience some cramping and pressure, vaginal soreness, and spotting. Because you are under sedation, any pain that you feel will be tolerable. If not, you are able to ask the doctor for more sedation.

So, is embryo transfer painful in IVF? Keep reading to find out more.

Is Embryo Transfer Painful?

Unlike the egg retrieval procedure, the embryo transfer is often performed without sedation. This is because this stage of IVF involves minimal discomfort. With a catheter and the use of an ultrasound machine, your fertility team will guide the embryo into your uterus for potential implantation.

During this time, you may experience some mild cramping. Yet, this is very short-lived (often during the procedure or the day of the procedure) and is well-tolerated by most.

Are IVF Injections Painful?

Injecting a needle can sound daunting and painful. But there’s good news: Many report barely feeling a thing, especially with the first few injections. Outside of this, you may experience some stinging or slight soreness in the injection site.

Additionally, as time goes on during the injection process, you may begin to feel a heaviness in your abdominals as your ovaries and follicles enlarge. However, most can carry on with their regular work and daily activities, minus some restrictions to types of exercise. For example, it’s recommended to avoid bending or twisting movements and lifting heavy weights as this can increase the risk of ovarian torsion.

IVF Pain Relief

For relief from discomfort during your IVF process, consider these tips:

Use over-the-counter pain medication: Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help manage mild to moderate pain associated with IVF procedures. Yet, it’s advised to always consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medications.

Apply cold packs before injections: Applying a cold pack to the injection site for a few minutes before administering the injection can help numb the area and reduce discomfort.

Use heat pads after egg retrieval: Using a heating pad or warm compress on the lower abdomen after egg retrieval can help alleviate cramping and discomfort. Apply heat for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, as needed.

Perform gentle exercise: Light physical activity, such as walking or gentle yoga (that doesn’t compress the abdominals), can help improve blood flow, reduce stress, and alleviate discomfort. However, avoid strenuous exercise and always listen to your body.

Try relaxation techniques: Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or visualization can help manage pain and reduce stress throughout the IVF process.

Consider acupuncture: Some studies suggest that acupuncture may help reduce pain and improve outcomes in IVF patients. However, always ensure the acupuncturist you visit is certified and qualified to work with fertility patients.

Aim for comfort: Wearing loose, comfortable clothing and using supportive pillows can help minimize discomfort, particularly after the egg retrieval and embryo transfer procedures.

Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet: Staying well-hydrated and maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet can help support overall health and recovery throughout the IVF process.

Seek out emotional support: Seeking support from loved ones, friends, or a professional counselor can help manage the emotional aspects of IVF, which can‌ help reduce the perception of pain and discomfort.

It’s important to remember that IVF cycles can be unsuccessful. In some situations, it can take an average of 2-3 cycles to achieve a pregnancy, so seeking support and practicing self-care throughout the process is crucial.

Lastly, everyone’s experience with discomfort during IVF is unique. It’s essential to communicate openly with your fertility team about any discomfort. From here, your team can provide personalized recommendations and support throughout your journey.

Are you curious about starting the IVF process? TRIO is here to help. With our team of Canada’s leading fertility specialists, we offer compassionate and expert care to help you achieve the family of your dreams. Book a call with a TRIO Care Navigator to learn more.


What is the best way to prepare my body for IVF?

There are various ways to prepare yourself before IVF. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Avoiding smoking or drinking alcohol
  • Managing stress
  • Taking fertility supplements (recommended by your MD or Fertility Naturopath)

How long should you rest after IVF? After an embryo transfer?

We ask that you take the day of your egg retrieval off. Most patients are able to return to work the following day.

You may choose to rest for a day or two following your embryo transfer. Research however is inconclusive on this question.

Your specific situation may be unique: please discuss this with your physician.

What is the most uncomfortable part of IVF?

Typically, many report increased discomfort during the injection process and post-egg retrieval. If you experience any discomfort along the way, you can try some of the helpful recommendations covered in this article and/or bring it up with your fertility team so they can advise you on the best way to manage it.

How long does the discomfort last after IVF?

Discomfort is common after egg retrieval; if pregnancy occurs, this may also continue for weeks afterward. However, it often resolves within one to two weeks or when your period arrives.