Cramping and IVF: Tips to Reduce Cramping & When to Visit Doctor

Cramping and IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Couples who are planning to start a family but are unable to conceive can now successfully do so through IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) in which the viable eggs retrieved from a woman’s ovaries are combined with sperms in a lab setting and then implanted back in her uterus. As a woman undergoes IVF, her body can respond to the treatment, but there are some chances of side effects like cramping, spotting, and headaches.

Cramping is usually a recurring side effect of the IVF process which can manifest as a reaction to fertility medicines or due to the collecting and transferring process. In this article, we have tried to address most questions one could have about cramping after IVF.  If you are planning to get an IVF, you will find this article pretty helpful.

Is Cramping After IVF Normal?

Yes, cramping after IVF is fairly common. It can take place at any point during the process of IVF treatment for many reasons. Some patient’s body can react to undergoing hormone therapy as well as the intrusion of foreign objects entering the body to collect eggs and embed embryos with slight to moderate cramping. You may feel cramps, particularly within 48 hours following the embryo transfer. You may also notice other symptoms like light spotting and tender breasts.

The occurrence of cramping during IVF is a temporary side effect for most patients which can be tackled by the use of a heating pad. Some may think of taking over-the-counter painkillers; however, we strictly recommend against it. It is always a good idea to consult your doctor before taking any painkillers so that it does not hamper the embryo implantation.

Do Fertility Drugs Cause Cramping?

Fertility drugs used during IVF contain gonadotropins which are similar to the hormones the body normally releases for egg stimulation in the ovary. Hence, the use of fertility drugs can result in excess chemicals and hormones in the body due to which some patients may experience period-like cramps. Also, the medicines can have quite an impact on a patient’s reproductive organs. It can trigger fluid accumulation around the ovaries which can lead to pelvic tenderness and discomfort.

Do Fertility Drugs Cause Cramping?

Do Cramps Occur After Egg Retrieval?

In some cases, women may experience cramps following the procedure of egg retrieval. The method of extracting eggs from a patient’s body involves inserting a catheter, which can cause some light cramping in normal situations, but the intensity may differ greatly between women. The instance of cramping can last for about a week after the process of egg retrieval. It is a common side effect of the IVF treatment and should not generate any unnecessary anxiety in women.

Does Cramping Occur After Embryo Transfer?

Mild cramping after embryo transfer may occur sometime within 7 to 10 days. The cramping typically feels like the cramps experienced during menstruation. A frozen embryo transfer can produce minor cramping in the days right after the procedure. But, it naturally subsides within 24 to 48 hours after the transfer is made. Cramping immediately after embryo transfer is likely to produce anxiety in women as they may perceive it as a sign of failed implantation. But this is not necessarily true. Cramping after embryo transfer can be a good sign and may happen when the embryo embeds itself into the uterine walls. However, it is essential to go in for a pregnancy test to check the results.

Most women going for an IVF might wonder if there are ways to reduce the cramping. As explained earlier, cramping is quite normal after an IVF, but yes, you can reduce the discomfort caused by cramping by following a few simple steps, which we shall talk about below.

Tips to Reduce Cramping Discomfort

Here’s what you can do to reduce the cramping discomfort after an IVF session.

1. Do Not Lift Heavy Objects After the Transfer

You may like to go easy on yourself immediately after the transfer. Refrain from lifting or moving heavy objects. It is also recommended to avoid indulging in rigorous exercises.

2. Take Adequate Rest

Make sure you take proper rest after the transfer. Stay away from activities that may increase your stress and anxiety levels. Learn to relax with soothing music, deep breathing techniques, and remain positive.

4. Follow a Healthy Diet

Keep yourself suitably hydrated by getting enough fluids. Incorporate nourishing food items like fresh fruits, veggies, soups, and protein in your diet. Avoid unhealthy food and drinks like junk food and aerated drinks. You may also like to limit your caffeine intake.

Follow a Healthy Diet

3. Take Prescribed Pain Relievers

Ensure that you take your medications regularly as prescribed by the doctor. If you feel the need to take a painkiller to ease your discomfort, first, consult your doctor to prevent any possible harm to the process. Due to the sensitive nature of the IVF process, certain medicines, if taken during the embryo transfer, can place the patients at an increased risk of a failed IVF. Therefore, it is NOT advisable to self-medicate.

5. Use a Heating Pad

Applying a warm compress a few times upon the stretch of discomfort may bring about some relief and can reduce the cramping discomfort considerably. You can also use a hot water bottle wrapped in a soft hand towel. Soaking yourself in a tub of warm water or standing under a shower of hot water can also prove beneficial in combating the distress caused by cramping.

The tips mentioned above should help you deal with the discomfort caused by cramping; however, severe cramping might need immediate medical attention. Read on to know when you should consult a doctor.

When to Consult a Doctor

Each woman is different and can experience varying symptoms. In certain cases, some women may experience no symptoms at all. In case the cramping turns severe and is accompanied by heavy bleeding or sensation of nausea at any step of the IVF procedure, seek medical assistance immediately. You must call your doctor when the prescribed painkillers fail to bring relief from the cramps as it may be indicative of serious issues like pelvic infection, ovarian torsion, ovarian haemorrhage, or IVF failure.

It is understandable why cramping experienced during IVF can be a cause for concern. But, it must not always be considered a negative sign. It can also indicate successful embryo implantation. However, sometimes, there could be certain side effects of fertility drugs in the body. It may also be difficult to establish the success of the embryo transfer. Only a pregnancy test clinically performed can ascertain it.

Also Read: Benefits of Fertility Drugs for Women

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