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Is IVF Painful? Exploring the Side Effects and Risks

Learn about IVF side effects, IVF risks such as OHSS, and what to expect from each stage

September 28, 2023

Understanding IVF

IVF is a complex and multifaceted fertility treatment involving several steps. The IVF process typically includes ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, fertilization, embryo culture, and embryo transfer. While the primary goal of IVF is to help individuals or couples achieve pregnancy, it's important to acknowledge that it may not always result in success. Moreover, IVF is not entirely without discomfort or side effects.

Is IVF Painful?

The degree of discomfort and pain experienced during IVF can vary from person to person. Let's break down the potential sources of discomfort during each stage of IVF.

Ovarian Stimulation: 

Are injections painful?

The first phase of IVF often involves administering injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. This process can lead to bloating, nausea, mild abdominal discomfort, and breast tenderness. Also, hormones can make you more emotional and lead to mood swings. Some women may find these sensations uncomfortable, but they are generally manageable. If you are afraid of injections, we can help you find a nurse to administer your shots. Learn about our fertility support.

Side effects of ovarian stimulation:

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a potential complication of ovarian stimulation. OHSS in IVF usually has mild symptoms such as nausea, bloating, and abdominal discomfort that go away in 1 or 2 days without treatment. Severe forms of OHSS that are less common may lead to enlarged ovaries and fluid accumulation in the abdomen, associated with trouble breathing, severe abdominal pain, and dehydration. Your doctor monitors your condition every few days to make sure the complications won't develop. In very rare cases (less than 1%), OHSS may lead to blood clots and kidney failure.

Egg Retrieval

Is egg retrieval painful?

The egg retrieval procedure is performed under anesthesia, typically intravenous (IV) sedation or local anesthesia. While you shouldn't feel pain during the procedure itself, you may experience some mild cramping or discomfort afterward, which can last for a day or two. Some women feel emotional and bloated for a longer period of up to 7 days.

Side effects of egg retrieval:

Sometimes, mild pelvic infection can occur, which is easily treated with antibiotics and very rarely requires severe infection develops that may need additional intervention.

Embryo Transfer

Is embryo transfer painful?

The embryo transfer procedure is relatively quick, doesn't require anesthesia, and is often described as painless. However, some individuals may experience slight discomfort or cramping during or after the transfer.

Side effects of embryo transfer:

Very rarely, infection can happen as a result of embryo transfer, but it is easily managed with antibiotics. 

Emotional Strain

The emotional toll of IVF cannot be overlooked. The process can be emotionally challenging, and individuals may experience stress, anxiety, and depression. Also, during and after ovarian stimulation, you may experience mood swings.

Other IVF risks

IVF may lead to serious complications if multiple embryos are transferred at once, leading to multiple pregnancy and significant risks, such as maternal hemorrhage, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-term birth, and delivery by C-section. Read ASRM guidelines on single embryo transfer.


While IVF can be an effective solution for infertility, it's essential to be aware of the potential side effects and risks, including the possibility of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. The question, "Is IVF painful?" may not have a one-size-fits-all answer, as individual experiences vary. However, most people find the discomfort associated with IVF to be manageable and temporary. Book an appointment with a fertility doctor to discuss the potential benefits and risks and choose the best treatment.

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