The process of in vitro fertilization is a complicated journey. Many couples who undergo in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and egg retrieval have, in many cases, exhausted all options when opting for this type of procedure. While the prospect of harvesting viable eggs for possible conception is an exciting one, it’s not without its potential complications after surgery.
Unwelcome Side Effects
Many medical procedures that require sedation cause the body to slow down, making it difficult to fire up certain processes like defecation. A common side effect of the IVF process is constipation and all the bloating, discomfort, and pain that go along with not efficiently moving the bowels. What causes this most unwelcome side effect is multi-faceted.
1. High hormone levels
During a typical in vitro procedure and immediately following, a woman’s progesterone levels are much higher than usual. As progesterone is primarily produced to relax muscles, the colon’s activity is temporarily suspended, causing issues with waste elimination.
An egg retrieval is performed using general anesthesia to keep you relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. Studies show that the use of anesthesia can cause constipation, no matter how much time you’ve been under. Many surgeons recommend the use of laxatives or stool softeners and plenty of dietary fiber, post-procedure to keep things moving smoothly.
3. Excess fluid in the pelvis
A common side effect of egg retrieval is the development of excess fluid and blood in the pelvic region, which is another contributing factor which can negatively impact the bowels.
4. Certain medications
Medications that are commonly prescribed after IVF, such as Cabergoline, are known to cause constipation. Ask your doctor for other alternative drugs that you can incorporate into your post procedure care plan to minimize this risk.
What You Can Do
If you are experiencing unwelcome and uncomfortable constipation post-IVF or egg retrieval, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize discomfort and perhaps “eliminate” it altogether. Prior to taking matters into your own hands however, it is important to talk to your doctor as you incorporate these steps, doing what makes sense for you and your body and is approved by your doctor for the wellness of your IVF journey.
Increase fiber intake
Fiber is an excellent digestive aid that helps you keep things moving smoothly through your digestive system. Aim for at least 25 grams of whole grain fiber daily for optimal results, or ask your doctor for recommendations on specific levels for your needs.
Drink plenty of water
Along with fiber, drinking enough water and staying properly hydrated is the single most effective thing you can do to prevent constipation. Women who have recently undergone IVF should aim for 70-80 ounces daily, alone and with meals. If you have trouble ingesting this quantity, try slicing up some fruit slices such as lemon, orange, lime, or even apple to add flavor and variety to all those glasses.
Take a stool softener
Many doctors will prescribe a stool softener after a procedure to help you through the first few days as your bladder and bowels are waking up once more. Know that those first few movements may feel uncomfortable, but by adhering to these tips and being consistent, you’ll soon see a significant difference in the way bathroom visits look and feel.
While a period of rest is normal and expected after a surgical procedure, your doctor will want you to begin moving again at some point. Start with some light walking, then progress to more stimulating movement as your doctor suggests. Don’t overdo it, or you could find yourself with corrective surgery on top of what you have just gone through.
Consider some prune juice
Prunes are naturally high in fiber and sorbitol, a natural sugar that helps to absorb excess water and move food through your gastrointestinal tract. Juice from prunes tends to unlock all the laxative benefits of this fruit and put it on speed dial, so proceed with caution. A little goes a long way, and if you haven’t seen your stool for a while, you may want to add in a few ounces at a time to avoid any surprises.
Consistency Is Key
Recovery from IVF can be made more comfortable by following doctor’s orders and minimizing your risk of developing constipation. Be consistent, use these tips, and keep a positive mental mindset as you heal your body and contemplate the possibility of becoming a parent.