15 June 2020

Is the IVF process painful for women?

Consultant Gynaecologist
Dr Mireia Galian

IVI Birmingham


If you’re planning a course of IVF fertility treatment, knowing what to expect can help to reduce anxiety and stress. A very common question from women about to embark on IVF treatment is whether or not it will be painful. To address this concern, we’ve broken down the IVF process to look at which parts could cause discomfort.

As well as the physical procedure, helping patients deal with the emotional side of IVF treatment is one of our top priorities. This can improve the experience of our patients, and make the process as positive as possible. In this sense, knowing what to expect from your very first appointment will definitely be helpful. Getting an approximate cost for IVF treatment is also reassuring, and avoids the stress of unexpected charges.

To begin with, let’s look at the most basic question of all: What is IVF?


What is IVF?

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the best-known and well-established method of creating embryos by mixing sperm and eggs in a laboratory. Fertilisation can take place with the conventional IVF technique (by which eggs and sperm are put together to allow a “natural” fertilization in a glass dish (in vitro)) or through ICSI (by which sperm is injected directly into the eggs). The embryo development occurs in the laboratory, where the embryos are observed and selected for transfer or future use. But before getting to this final stage of the process where embryos can be used or stored, the IVF treatment involves few distinct steps along the way. For an honest appraisal of whether or not IVF will be painful, we will look at these steps one by one.

1. Ovarian stimulation

During the ovarian stimulation treatment, hormones are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce a multiple number of eggs at the same time. These hormones are given in the form of subcutaneous (under the skin) self-administered injections. Although most patients have never used this type of medication, full instructions and support about how to use this injections are given. When using subcutaneous injections, the needles used are very fine and therefore, any discomfort from its administration is likely to be mild. Having said that, some people (particularly those with a fear of needles) may struggle with this part of the treatment due to the anxiety derived from the administration of these daily drugs. Partners, friends or relatives are welcomed to join the appointment to learn how to use this medication for more support or help with self-administered medication. That way, you can at least look away! For more tips about coping with any pain from this part of the process, have a look at our article about IVF injections.

2. Egg retrieval

When the eggs are ready to be collected, the egg retrieval happens 36 hours after triggering the ovulation. This procedure takes place in the operating theatre and since it is performed under light sedation, it is completely painless. This procedure usually lasts about 15 minutes and after recovery (usually 1-2 hours) the patient is discharged.

3. Embryo transfer

Once the eggs have been fertilized and the embryos created, the healthiest or genetically normal embryo can be transferred back to the maternal uterus. Although this procedure is carried out in the operating theatre as well, there is no need for anaesthesia. An embryo transfer is a painless procedure that is performed quickly by using a fine catheter that will help the consultant to place the embryo inside the uterine cavity.

That’s the end of the IVF process and, if successful, the beginning of a longed-for pregnancy. But unfortunately, we also have to face up to the possibility of a failed cycle.


The emotional pain of a failed cycle

An unsuccessful IVF cycle is not a trivial event. Although some patients take the disappointment in their stride and look forward to trying again, others need more time to go through a period of grief and mourning. Everyone is different and each woman/couple needs to experience the event in her/their own way. For some, support and understanding from partners, friends or relatives can be priceless following a failed IVF cycle. Others may prefer not to share their experience with close friends or their families. That is why at IVI we also have trained professionals on hand who can talk through what has happened and help to guide our patients through the healing process and the decision-making process on the next steps.


How to budget for IVF

As well as an investment of time, energy and emotional commitment, there is also a financial investment to consider. We believe understanding the cost of IVF treatment is as important as understanding the procedure. Knowing all of the costs involved is essential in order to avoid financial burden.

We understand the significant financial commitment our patients make to have IVF. We also understand that hidden charges can come as a very unpleasant surprise, and disrupt careful financial planning. At IVI, our pricing policy is clear, simple and above all, transparent. We have designed packages depending on the specific treatment you need. These contain all the necessary elements of your treatment, shown with a breakdown of the total cost. The only extras would be for additional treatments and these are clearly shown on our downloadable price list.


What to expect on your first visit

Finally, to know what to expect from your first visit have a look at the information on the IVI website about our prestigious London clinic or, if you wish, why not make an appointment to join one of our patient open evenings? This is an excellent opportunity to have a guided tour, meet our staff members and ask any questions you have in an informal and comfortable environment. This is a step of the process that we can guarantee will be completely pain-free and even enjoyable!

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