Last Updated on June 9, 2019
Does IVF itself cause weight gain, and if so, does everyone experience it? One of the most commonly lamented side effects of in vitro fertilization and its associated medications is weight gain. Some amount of IVF weight gain is common; many women experience it. On the other hand, some women do not experience any noticeable weight gain.
The good news is that IVF weight gain is normal; it’s okay to experience it and to even feel a bit badly about it. The bad news is that it can be difficult to watch your body go through changes you feel you can’t control. Actress Maria Menounos shared frequently on social media about her IVF journey, including the bloating and IVF weight gain she eventually came to consider normal and acceptable.
Note that the in vitro fertilization process itself doesn’t cause weight gain. The process involves stimulating the ovaries, retrieving eggs, fertilizing eggs, and implanting embryos or blastocysts. Nothing about those specific steps directly causes weight gain.
On the flip side, pregnancy clearly causes weight gain, so it’s important not to confuse the two. Especially after transfer, women should not confuse the normal side effects of implantation and early pregnancy with IVF treatment.
Weight gained after treatments begin, but before IVF transfer, could technically be considered IVF weight gain. Also, you could consider any weight gained, but not lost, after IVF transfer that did not result in pregnancy to be IVF weight gain, too.
Still, IVF weight gain is possible. Read below for information about what causes the weight gain and what to do about it.
What Causes IVF Weight Gain?
Women tend to experience IVF weight gain in one of two ways, and possibly both ways. The first way involves bloating. This is not real weight gain. Bloating occurs typically after egg retrieval and then again after implantation. When you’re bloated, you feel fuller and possibly heavier, but you haven’t actually gained much weight. Bloating eventually reduces with rest, cold compresses, or time.
On the other hand, some women experience actual weight gain – not bloating. As stated earlier, this weight gain isn’t caused by the IVF procedures. It’s actually caused by the extra hormones women take to ensure a successful IVF cycle.
The hormone treatments that come with in vitro fertilization can cause weight gain. More than likely, any significant IVF weight gain was caused by one of them.
Not everyone experiences the same thing with progesterone shots. It’ll depend somewhat on the dosage as well as your body’s own natural response to it. While everyone is different, some of the side effects of IVF progesterone shots may include:
- Facial hair
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- Mood swings/depression
Notice that some people experience weight loss rather than weight gain. Progesterone impacts everyone a little differently. So, don’t be surprised if your specific results with it vary from others.
Fertility Stimulating Hormones (FSH)
Fertility specialists also conclude that follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) cause some bloating and weight gain. FSH boosts estrogen levels dramatically, resulting in mood swings and physical changes. Another side effect includes enlarged ovaries, which can make your abdominal area feel heavier and bulkier.
Side Effects of IVF Drugs
Similar to other IVF medications, patients link Lupron to weight gain. Most likely, the increase in estrogen creates an environment conducive to weight gain (bloating, fatigue, mood swings) but doesn’t directly cause it. However, it could be considered an indirect link or cause. Nearly all IVF-related hormone medications have the capacity to cause weight gain, largely due to the hormonal response. The medications themselves do not directly cause weight gain; it tends to be a change caused by other, more direct side effects.
Other Causes of IVF Weight Gain
Generally, some additional causes come from lifestyle changes. Some women, taking extra precautions, exercise less often or less rigorously than before. Sometimes, patients change their exercise habits more out of convenience than precaution.
For example, consider the fact that numerous IVF appointments can make finding the time to workout a challenge. Not only that, but some of the procedures, like the egg retrieval process, can be slightly uncomfortable. This encourages some women to rest more and focus on staying stress free and healthy.
So, drastically reducing exercise can definitely lead to IVF weight gain. In addition, some women eat more or change their eating habits. This could be caused by hormone treatments, or it could be situational.
Fluid retention from estrogen levels during in vitro fertilization can also lead to weight gain. But keep in mind that fluid retention is temporary. You will lose weight gained as a result of fluid retention when your levels go back to normal.
OHSS and IVF Weight Gain
OHSS stands for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. With OHSS, patients experience swollen, painful ovaries as a result of the stimulation process. The condition can be quite serious. Even when it’s not very serious, some side effects include very fast weight gain and stomach pain.
In fact, rapid weight gain can indicate/suggest OHSS, so women who experience it should contact their fertility clinic to rule it out.
OHSS can occur from taking too much fertility medication, so be sure to maintain the correct dosage and keep in touch with your doctor at all times. Beyond weight gain and stomach pain, other symptoms include vomiting and nausea.
How Much Weight Gain is Normal During IVF?
Every woman’s experience with IVF weight gain is different. Some gain weight quickly and lose it right away. Other women gain and lose the weight much more slowly.
In online forums, women note anywhere from 3 pounds gained to 15 pounds gained prior to embryo transfer. These weight gain stories generally focus on the weight gained during IVF treatment, so that they are not confused with general pregnancy weight gain.
Remember, bloating and weight gain are two different things. One is temporary, while the other may be permanent or at least longer term. Many women discuss the bloating the treatments caused, but do not report weight gain from IVF, specifically.
Most comments from women indicate a very small IVF weight gain of around 3 pounds.
Does Everyone Experience IVF Weight Gain?
No. Not everyone experiences any weight gain at all with IVF, and some do not experience the bloating, either. That’s why it’s important to understand that women’s responses to the stimulants and procedures differ.
A woman’s medical history, current lifestyle, and general health all contribute to how much weight she may gain, if any. While bloating is a common side effect of IVF treatment, weight gain varies. It is normal to gain some weight and normal not to, also.
Keeping in mind that IVF treatment is also very stressful, some women going through it may be prone to overeating or eating to fight stress. This can lead to weight gain, surely. Combine that with additional rest necessary after egg retrieval, or the fatigue the hormone treatments can cause. These things result in a strong potential for weight gain, even if the amount is small.
Options for Losing Weight or Maintaining Weight During IVF
Don’t go on a weight loss plan just to shed the few pounds you may gain during IVF! In fact, your health during this time is vitally important, so don’t jeopardize it. Yoyo diets or fad diets could actually impede your process and impact your hormone levels.
One option for keeping your weight in check during IVF is to regulate stress with other things besides food. Yoga and exercise remain a couple of the top stress management techniques.
Also, opt for healthy choices when it comes to meals, and stick to whole foods with plenty of fruits and veggies. By doing so, you’ll ensure you’re getting the proper nutrition your body needs, while helping moderate mood swings and cravings.
If hormone treatments caused the weight gain, you can expect to lose that weight once the treatments stop. Progesterone treatment usually stops once you are 9 weeks pregnant. Similarly, bloating should reduce a few weeks after egg retrieval and transfer.
However, if you become pregnant, implantation and pregnancy may also cause bloating! In that cause, the bloating would be continuous for a while.
Contact your doctor if you experience a rapid, quick onset of weight gain during IVF. That may indicate OHSS or another serious condition.