In vitro fertilization, commonly called IVF, requires a variety of medications, including hormone injections, to control a woman's reproductive cycle and help with conception. These medications carry a minimal risk of side effects, which should be understood before undergoing treatment.
One of the possible side effects we focus on today is constipation. If you would like to know more about IVF side effects including constipation, contact the Lubbock, TX Centre for Reproductive Medicine to schedule a consultation with Dr. Janelle Dorsett.
Understanding Constipation and In Vitro Fertilization
Constipation generally happens when stools stay in the large intestine, or colon, for too long. While in the colon, water is absorbed from the stools. The longer stools remain in the colon, the more water will be absorbed from the stools, causing stools to become hard and dry. This makes it very difficult to eliminate stools from the body.
Hormone levels within the body can affect the bowels, sometimes causing constipation. One hormone in particular, progesterone, which plays an integral role in pregnancy and IVF treatment, can cause constipation. This is because progesterone acts as a muscle relaxant, which can cause the muscles within the large intestines to relax and prevent them from properly moving waste through the intestines.
Another contributing factor to constipation during IVF treatment is related to fluid levels within the body. During IVF treatment, the follicles are stimulated to encourage the release of multiple eggs. As the follicles develop, they require more fluid to support each growing egg. The follicles will pull fluid from other areas of the body, increasing the risk of constipation, if not enough fluids are consumed before egg retrieval.
The Signs of Constipation
Every person is different when it comes to a “normal” length of time between bowel movements. When bowel movements stop for longer than three days, or become difficult to pass, it's often a sign of constipation. Some other signs of constipation include:
- Hard or small stools
- Fewer bowel movements
- Straining while trying to have a bowel movement
- Swollen or bloated belly
- Stomach pain
Relieving Constipation after In Vitro Fertilization
For most women who experience constipation after in vitro fertilization, their bowel movement cycle will return to normal shortly after treatment. Although constipation after in vitro fertilization typically does not last very long, it can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are some ways to help treat constipation and alleviate discomfort.
Constipation after in vitro fertilization does not occur in all patients, but if you experience constipation here are some ways to help.
- Drink plenty of water: Drink plenty of water, somewhere between eight and ten glasses, every day and avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine as these can dehydrate the body.
- Take short walks: Take a short 10 to 20-minute gentle walk everyday to help loosen the body (and the bowels).
- Eat plenty of fiber: Eat foods high in fiber, like fruit, vegetables, and bran cereal. Prune juice and dried plums are particularly effective in alleviating constipation.
- Try elevating your feet: Try slightly elevating your feet with a small step stool (6 to 9 inches high) when using the toilet to put the body into a squatting position. This helps straighten the colon for easier elimination.
- Ask your doctor about medications: Medications that soften the stool, such as Colace, or laxatives, like Milk of Magnesia, may be the best option if nothing else has worked to alleviate constipation. Discuss with your doctor which medications may be right for you.
Learn More about IVF
For more information about IVF or other fertility treatments, please contact our fertility center today.