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The early stages of an IVF pregnancy are exciting, full of anticipation, and sometimes nerve-wrecking. Couples who become pregnant through IVF often wonder how to talk to their family and friends about it. Pregnancy gives couples a lot to look forward to – a new baby in the family and several months of joy and planning.
Maybe you haven’t conceived yet, but want to prepare, and know ahead of time what you can expect during an IVF pregnancy. This guide is a good place to start!
If you are new to pregnancy, expect to have a lot of questions, concerns, worries, and thoughts. You’ll experience ups and downs all throughout the IVF process. And if you’re not new to IVF pregnancy, you already know all about the positive and negative emotions you’re likely to experience again this time.
- 9 Things You Should Expect During or After IVF Pregnancy
- 1. Expect some anxiety.
- 2. Expect the same symptoms of pregnancy as non-IVF pregnancy.
- 3. Expect to feel pregnant, even if you’re not.
- 4. Expect to be asked questions
- 5. Expect some misunderstanding
- 6. Expect concern and care
- 7. Expect to need support from other IVF couples
- 8. Expect to be protective of your pregnancy
- 9. Expect to need/want time off work
First Things First
First and foremost, keep in mind that a pregnancy is a wonderful thing. Many couples go through IVF and do not become pregnant. So, if you are pregnant, congratulations! You’ve cleared a huge hurdle and now it is time to focus on the pregnancy. If you are interested in the question of when are your baby born, you can try our best IVF pregnancy calculator and best IVF hCG calculator.
If you’ve never been pregnant before, you might have even more questions that someone who has had a baby before, but used IVF for a second or subsequent pregnancy. How do you know if you’re pregnant? What does it feel like? Is there a way to avoid a miscarriage?
The truth is that carrying a baby after IVF is mostly the same as carrying a baby after natural conception. IVF simply assists in the implantation of an embryo. All of the issues, ups, and downs with pregnancy after the implantation still exist.
Sometimes, women who’ve had difficulties getting pregnant assume that they will have difficulties staying pregnant, too. That’s not true for everyone, though it is important to understand that pregnancy rates and live birth rates are not the same. Additionally, some women who become pregnant through IVF continue to struggle with anxious feelings or thoughts.
9 Things You Should Expect During or After IVF Pregnancy
1. Expect some anxiety.
After a successful implantation, you’ll use the next few weeks to look for signs of pregnancy. If you are pregnant, you should miss the first period after your IVF treatment. It’s true that some women who are pregnant do have one or more periods, but it’s extremely rare.
More than likely, you’ll be nervous and anxious the first few weeks, if not the entire first trimester. Just know that you’re not alone – so many women are anxious during the first trimester of pregnancy, not just those who used IVF to conceive.
Within two weeks of an IVF round, you should be pregnant – meaning, the embryo should have successfully implanted itself in the lining of your uterus, and it should be multiplying in size. Your doctor will likely give you a blood test to confirm the pregnancy. Your HCG level should also be very high.
As far as ultrasounds go, you’ll have one right the beginning, and then not another until many weeks later. Unless your pregnancy is high risk, that’s very normal. “Once the initial ultrasound confirms everything is developing correctly another ultrasound may be scheduled a few weeks later.” (Source)
Some women feel more comfortable taking pregnancy tests on their own to make sure they’re still pregnant, but that’s not recommended. At this point, continuing to take tests is only going to make you more anxious. Stress and pregnancy don’t work well together. Relax, and trust your body and your doctor. Clearly that is easier said than done. But you have to commit to staying relaxed and allowing your body to build itself up around the baby and protect it.
Your stress or anxiety level may decrease as the pregnancy goes on. Dr. Saleh, a fertility specialist in Texas stated on her website: “In the end, stress declines to a large extent once the pregnancy is going well and a nice fetal heartbeat is detected at your six-and-a-half week ultrasound.”
2. Expect the same symptoms of pregnancy as non-IVF pregnancy.
How will you know you are pregnant? Besides the pregnancy test your doctor will give you, here are some symptoms of an IVF pregnancy after an embryo transfer (Source: Baby-Pedia.com):
|Spotting||Not all women experience implantation spotting, but many do. If you notice some light bleeding after your embryo transfer, don’t panic! It’s likely spotting – remember, your period is on a cycle. You likely won’t experience a period until it’s time for one.|
So if you see spotting right away after an embryo transfer, it’s most likely caused by the implantation – that’s a good sign.
|Cramping||Implantation can cause cramping. Some women feel a pinch, while others feel stomach pain. According to Baby-Pedia, this can happen up to five days after the embryo transfer.|
|PMS Symptoms||If you feel very tired, sluggish, or worn out, that’s normal. Your body uses a ton of energy during pregnancy. Your breasts may also feel a little sore to the touch, and you may even become irritable.|
Remember, after embryo transfer, the pregnancy you’ll experience is the same as a couple who did not use IVF. You’ll have the same anxieties, questions, worries, and physical symptoms. During early pregnancy, your body is getting ready and making necessary adjustments.
Don’t obsess over live birth rates and the success of IVF, if possible. Stress impacts pregnancy, according to the National Institute of Health. Therefore, it’s better to try and control your stress as much as you can. According to the NIH, “high levels of stress can also cause high blood pressure, which increases your chance of having preterm labor or a low-birth-weight infant.”
3. Expect to feel pregnant, even if you’re not.
One of the most difficult situations for IVF pregnancy that isn’t as common with non-IVF pregnancy is this: you may feel pregnant even if you are not.
According to experts, the reason you may feel pregnant is because of your hormones. To prepare for a successful IVF pregnancy, you’re given hormone treatments. These treatments raise your HCG levels and progesterone levels. HCG is known as the “pregnancy” hormone and progesterone is required to maintain a pregnancy. With these hormone levels high, you may feel pregnant and have symptoms that are commonly linked with pregnant women.
4. Expect to be asked questions
Friends and family who’ve been there for you during your infertility struggle may have questions about IVF. That’s natural. Just do your best to answer the questions, or, ask for privacy if you’re not ready to.
IVF is much more common today than it was thirty and forty years ago, when it began. Still, it’s also common, and okay, to not want to talk about your IVF pregnancy, especially in the beginning.
One woman wrote the following on an online message board:
“I can’t decide if we tell our families about the IVF. It is such a personal experience and if for whatever reason it does not work, I do not want to talk about it with anyone other than my husband and my close friends. I have an amazing family, we just do not talk about private details like this.”
Even if your family isn’t like this woman’s, and you openly share private details, you may feel differently early on in an IVF pregnancy. Like this woman, maybe you feel like keeping it a secret, just in case it doesn’t work. It’s okay to feel that way.
However, if you do share, please know that some people may ask questions about IVF, how it works, how you feel about it, etc. Most of the time, your friends and family will ask questions in support and encouragement, not criticism. In all likelihood, they want to help, and so you can expect people to ask how they can help and if there’s anything they can do.
Young children in the home may also have questions about IVF and how it works. If you feel comfortable sharing, you should.
5. Expect some misunderstanding
IVF is not without criticism. In fact, some people believe that it is unethical, and there are some religious groups who are anti-IVF and other ways of assisted conception. IVF also has some risks – including the potential for multiple births. For this reason, not everyone agrees with IVF or recommends it. Know these beliefs and opinions up front, so that you will not be surprised by them.
Sometimes, a friend, family member, or acquaintance might make a comment that is rude or inappropriate. Often, the people you know are not intentionally trying to say inappropriate things. They can be really hurtful, though. If you’re not expecting some misunderstanding or impoliteness, you might get caught off guard.
The infertility group RESOLVE posted an article online called “Infertility Etiquette” to help family and friends learn what not to say when a couple is going through infertility. The information helps, regardless of whether or not a couple chooses IVF. Share the article with family and friends to help them make better choices in their communication.
6. Expect concern and care
Overall, you’ll likely find concern, care, encouragement and support. More likely than not, your friends and family want to be there for you and find ways to support you. So expect this level of kindness and careful attention, more than anything else.
You can help your friends and family out by being upfront about your sensitivities. If you find talking about the IVF treatments or what you went through difficult to share, tell them that. Or, if you want to get it all out in the open, and then not ever talk about it again, you can say that, too.
Read “Telling Others About Your Infertility” for great advice on handling questions from family and friends. One of the best pieces of advice from the article is to make a plan in advance – know what you’re going to share, what you’re not going to share, and why.
At the same time, if you’re in a circle of friends who all struggled with infertility, expect to provide some level of concern and care to women who become pregnant, too. Many women have stated in various forums that once they became pregnant, friends who continued to struggle with infertility became envious or bitter.
All of that is normal. Still, keep in mind that your baby joy may not be shared by others, especially those who haven’t had success with IVF yet.
One woman described her story in this way: “Ever since I announced my pregnancy to her, she has been distant, and it hurts. I know it’s hard for her because, everyone else around her is getting pregnant.”
The people in the best positions to provide care and concern to women and men struggling to conceive are there who experienced it firsthand.
7. Expect to need support from other IVF couples
Time and time again, couples who become pregnant through IVF take to online message boards to get advice, encouragement, and ask questions. Why? Because other IVF couples have gone through a similar situation and know the struggle.
Because of this, your fertility doctor may even recommend a support group for you. Otherwise, he or she might give or recommend to you a few books to read that will help you along the way. IVF pregnancy can sometimes be a lonely experience for one or both expectant parents.
Infertility Support Groups. You can find infertility and IVF support groups online or in person. Below is just a small sample.
In Person Support Groups
- RESOLVE National Infertility Association Support Groups.RESOLVE has listed support groups in every state. According to the website, this list includes professionally-led groups and peer-led groups.
- com In-Person IVF Support Groups.Currently, there are 58 IVF support meetup groups around the world. Most of them are in the United States.
- Infertility Support Groups Listed on Psychology Today.You can find a list of local support groups by searching the Psychology Today support group database. In the search results, you’ll find the host’s name, contact number, where the group meets, and sometimes a link to the group.
- You can also search Google using your location and the term infertility support group or “IVF support group” and see what comes up. Many local websites feature support groups in the area.
Online Support Groups and Pages
- Daily Strength Infertility Support Group. This is one of the largest active support groups on the web. While it is a general support group for infertility, you can still post specific IVF concerns, comments, and struggles here.
- com. FertileThoughts.com has a newsletter as well as an active discussion forum. There is a separate forum space reserved for “IVF & High Tech Treatment” on this site. Across all of its forums, FertileThoughts currently has over 94,000 members.
- Attain Fertility Group on Facebook. Attain Fertility has a growing Facebook community for couples struggling with fertility. This is not a group, and the posts are not private. However, Attain publishes posts that you might find encouraging as you settle in your IVF pregnancy.
8. Expect to be protective of your pregnancy
Couples who try to get pregnant for several years before using IVF may be surprised to find out just how protective they feel.
One woman commented on a blog post, “When I finally got pregnant I was totally insecure and uncertain because my only certainty was that I couldn’t trust my own body with basic functions surrounding pregnancy.”
Feeling insecure after becoming pregnant through IVF is normal, especially if you’ve also had miscarriages.
A research study confirmed that older couples who become pregnant due to assisted reproductive treatments can have higher anxiety for three reasons:
- Risk factors of older pregnancies
- Mental impact of the pre-natal screening process
- “Consequences of being labeled a high obstetric risk”
The researchers studied 66 women and their partners who had conceived using ART (assisted reproductive technology) in Australia. While not all of the couples conceived using IVF (some may have used IUI), the results were revealing. Age didn’t play a factor at all in post ART pregnancy anxiety. All couples, and the two single women in the study, felt it to some degree.
In an article written for the New York Times, author Amy Klein wrote the following about becoming pregnant after IVF. Later, The Center for Advanced Reproductive Studies published the article on their website.
“The bad feelings don’t go away just because the event is over. You can’t all of a sudden turn the switch on for happiness and well-being because you were in such a dark and scary place for so long. Even though you’d thought you were coping quite well during the trauma, when it’s over, all the pent-up emotions finally flood over you.”
So, it makes sense that women who become pregnant after IVF may still have a lot of anxiety, and may become protective of the pregnancy.
9. Expect to need/want time off work
On average, pregnant women have between 10 and 15 doctor’s visits before giving birth. If the pregnancy is high-risk, the number of visits will be much higher than that.
IVF treatments take a number of appointments already. After the pregnancy, you might discover that you would like to or, or need to take additional time off from work. You may feel tired and just want to retreat from the public for awhile. Or, your physician may ask you or direct you to take time off.
If so, there are some things you can do and you have some options. While many employers grant time off work after having a baby, most do not cover time off while you are pregnant. Under certain circumstances, though, you can take time off and still keep your job.
Here are just a few options that might be available for you, if you run out of paid time off:
- Short term disability
- Long term disability
- ADA “Time Off Work as a Reasonable Accommodation”
- Work from home/flex scheduling
Both the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) cover a number of cases where you may need time off to see a doctor or for mental health purposes. As long as your employer is not a small business (with 50 or fewer employees), the ADA coverage could apply (it doesn’t always, but it could). Your doctor can write a prescription or letter explaining the need for time off, how much, and whether it’s recurring (such as 5 hrs off per week).
Under most circumstances, if your doctor says time off work is a medical necessity in your condition and you’ve been working for your company for at least a year, you’ll be granted the ADA temporary leave (even recurring leave). Usually the process is seamless and non-intrusive, and many large companies use a third party ADA coordinator so that you do not have to have a lot of private conversations with your supervisor.
FMLA is much more cut and dry, but is more specific in terms of what is covered. Talk about both options with a doctor and with your HR director. In cases where FMLA is not applicable, ADA may be a viable option for you.
For many couples and women, IVF pregnancy is a time of celebration and joy. Still, it’s perfectly okay to feel anxious or surprised about some of the feelings that might come up. Message boards are flooded with comments and posts from people who continue to struggle, well into their pregnancies.
These nine important things to expect can hardly cover all of the issues that might surface. And some people experience the joy of becoming pregnant and having a successful round of IVF more than anything else..
Just keep in mind that there is no standard operating procedure or a set of rules that determine what you’re supposed to think and feel. Instead, just go through the different questions, phases, and emotions as they surface. Online support groups and in person support groups exist for the times you need additional support. Lastly, your fertility doctor and obstetrician should always be people you can trust to go to with questions, concerns, or support.
- First Trimester of Pregnancy After IVF (http://www.pregnancyivf.com/first-trimester-of-pregnancy-after-ivf/)
- Will stress during pregnancy affect my baby? (https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preconceptioncare/conditioninfo/pages/stress.aspx)
- Symptoms After Embryo Transfer (https://baby-pedia.com/symptoms-after-embryo-transfer/)
- Infertility Etiquette (http://www.resolve.org/support/for-family–friends/infertility-etiquette.html)
- Psychosocial adjustment during pregnancy for older couples conceiving through assisted reproductive technology (https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/22/4/1168/699138/Psychosocial-adjustment-during-pregnancy-for-older)
- Anxiety of Pregnancy After IVF (http://www.uconnfertility.com/2015/03/anxiety-of-pregnancy-after-infertility/)
- Pregnancy, the FMLA, and the ADA (https://www.taylorenglish.com/blogs-hr-minute,Pregnancy-the-FMLA-and-ADA)
- What to expect at your prenatal visits (https://www.babycenter.com/0_what-to-expect-at-your-prenatal-visits_9252.bc)