IVF or egg freezing can be an all encompassing process. It can take a real toll on your body both mentally and physically. Here are some side effects of the process you can expect alongside a few tips on how to cope with each one.
IVF and egg freezing can be hard on your mental health. The stress of scheduling your life and work schedules around the appointments, combined with learning how to inject your medications, can be a heavy mental load to bear. On top of that, the ovarian stimulation medications increase the hormones circulating through your body that can cause you to feel fatigue as well as more emotional than usual. You can think of the mood changes the same as you may experience during your normal menstrual cycle, but more intense.
How to Cope:
The best way to cope with the mental changes during treatment is to make sure to take it easy during the time you plan to start your cycle. Plan to relax during your cycle and set aside time for yourself. A few great ways to embrace your “me time” are meditation, acupuncture, and exercise. Meditation can be done alone or can be a guided meditation. Both types help you quiet your mind and center yourself, which can help you to maintain a positive mindset and to reduce stress.
Acupuncture is another way to reset your body and mind. It can also help to improve blood flow. Some people find that it provides benefits for their physical symptoms like bloating and headaches during ovarian stimulation, too.
Exercise is a wonderful way to clear your mind and it releases endorphins that boost your mood. Your capacity to exercise will change throughout your treatment though. Check in with your clinic about what types of exercise are safe for you. Some ideas for low impact exercise are walking, hiking, swimming, and some forms of gentle yoga.
Some patients also benefit from talking to someone. That someone can be a supportive friend or family member or can be a therapist. Whether it be venting or talking about the stress associated with the process, sometimes talking to someone about it can make a world of a difference!
Some patients experience changes in their skin during ovarian stimulation due to the hormones. Most often, the skin changes that are associated with ovarian stimulation are acne breakouts. These breakouts are related to hormone changes caused by the fertility medications. Other patients experience dryness and flakiness of their skin during their treatment. It’s unpredictable if and how your skin will react during your treatment cycle, but there are a few simple ways you can prepare to try to prevent or treat changes in your skin.
How to Cope:
When starting an IVF or egg freezing cycle, be sure to find a gentle oil-free facial cleanser and moisturizer based on your skin type. If your skin remains acne-prone or excessively dry following the completion of your treatment cycle, it may be worth a trip to the dermatologist. If you’re trying to conceive, you may also want to discuss pregnancy-safe skin care options.
Bloating and Constipation
A common side effect during treatment is bloating. As your bloating increases during treatment, it can affect your appetite because the space in your abdomen for your stomach to expand can get smaller and smaller as your ovaries and bloating take up more room.
The most common bowel change during fertility treatment is constipation. Constipation is typically a response to elevated progesterone, which happens after ovulation, after egg retrieval, and during pregnancy.
How to Cope:
If you’re feeling too bloated to handle the typical three meals a day, eat lots of small meals. Avoid large quantities of simple carbohydrates like breads, pastas, and sugary foods, as they can contribute to more bloating. Simple carbohydrates are best enjoyed occasionally as part of a balanced diet to help you feel your best.
For constipation, eat a diet high in fiber (beans, vegetables and fruits, whole grains like oatmeal) and also have lots of liquids, both water and other fluids with electrolytes, like sports drinks.
Weight gain during fertility treatment is normal due to stress, bloating, and hormone fluctuations. Just because it’s normal, however, doesn’t mean it’s always welcome or that it can’t lead to elevated stress.
How to Cope:
During fertility treatment, it’s important to try to keep your body in healthy physical and emotional condition to support growing and nurturing a future pregnancy. The best way to do this is to eat a well-balanced diet, stay well hydrated, and continue to be active. Your activity types may change during treatment. For example, you may need to switch out your running and boot camp classes for low impact exercises like walking or swimming. Oftentimes, a small amount of weight gain during fertility treatment is inevitable, but as long as you continue to take good care of your body, you’re doing all you can to be successful and thrive during treatment. Don’t forget to give yourself grace and remember that the most important thing is to take care of your body during this stressful time.
Some patients experience headaches during treatment. People who suffer from headaches or migraines regularly are more likely to experience them during treatment. As with many of the other side effects of treatment, these headaches are most often brought on by hormonal changes in the body.
How to Cope:
For some, headaches can resolve with rest. If you get a headache, you can first try closing your eyes and lying down. Frequently, that can be all you need to get rid of the pain. For others, the headache is persistent and needs to be treated with medication. Before taking any medications, reach out to your clinic to see what is safe to take. Things like ibuprofen are not safe during pregnancy and are often not recommended during fertility treatment either.
If you are prescribed any migraine medication, be sure to review this with your fertility specialist to be sure it’s okay to take it during treatment.
During fertility treatment, there are many side effects that people experience, including those listed here and many more. Each person and each cycle is different, which means how and what you feel may be different, too. The main ways to help deal with the aches and pains associated with fertility treatment are to take care of yourself mentally, eat well and stay hydrated, and get out and exercise. Experiencing side effects during treatment is normal and temporary but can be mitigated with the right prep and expectations. Listen to your body and do your best to be kind yourself throughout the journey.