Trying to conceive via in vitro fertilization (IVF) is stressful enough. But add in a nasty bout of constipation after egg retrieval, and it’s no wonder this procedure can take a toll on your physical and emotional health.
The good news? Getting relief from constipation is a lot easier than you might think. Because it is a common side effect of egg retrieval, there are plenty of people who have been in your position. Which means, there are lots of tips and tricks for getting rid of this uncomfortable problem.
Read on to learn how long constipation can last after egg retrieval, how you can get relief, what causes it, and whether or not constipation can affect embryo implantation.
“Constipation can last for a few days after the retrieval, or it might last until the next menstrual cycle when progesterone levels drop,” says Khaled Zeitoun, MD, OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinology & infertility (REI) specialist at New Hope Fertility in New York City.
However, if you get pregnant, Zeitoun says constipation might last much longer because pregnancy also causes high progesterone levels and can give you constipation.
Constipation is a normal side effect after egg retrieval. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it. Natural remedies can help.
Here are five ways to relieve constipation naturally after egg retrieval.
Zeitoun suggests drinking plenty of water before the procedure and staying hydrated after egg retrieval.
That’s because water helps you get rid of waste through bowel movements. Water also aids in preventing constipation by keeping you from becoming dehydrated.
You get water from food and fluid. Ideally, most of your hydration should come from drinking water throughout the day.
But you will also find water in foods like watermelon, strawberries, apples, cantaloupe, cucumbers, lettuce, skim milk, broth, and soup.
Choosing foods high in fiber may also help relieve constipation after egg retrieval.
That’s because fiber can speed up the transit of stool through the digestive system, allowing you to have regular bowel movements.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women ages 19 to 30 should consume 28 grams of fiber when following a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
This amount decreases slightly for ages 31 to 50, with the recommendation of 25 grams for a 1,800-calorie-per-day diet.
Fiber-rich foods include:
If your fiber intake is currently on the low end, slowly increase the amount you eat. Adding too much fiber too quickly can cause abdominal discomfort.
In addition to drinking lots of water, Zeitoun recommends a glass of prune juice. If you don’t like drinking juice, try snacking on a few prunes instead.
Results from a randomized controlled study found that healthy individuals with infrequent stool habits experienced an increase in stool weight and frequency after consuming prunes.
Magnesium is a mineral found in many foods and supplements.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance or RDA for women ages 19 to 30 is 310 milligrams (mg) and 320 mg for ages 31 to 50. This amount increases once you become pregnant.
If you’re already taking a prenatal vitamin or other supplements, check the amount of magnesium to make sure you’re staying within the RDA for your age.
Foods high in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, and spinach. Check with your doctor if you want to add a magnesium supplement to your routine.
Physical activity like walking or jogging can sometimes get things moving and keep your bowel movements regular.
Aim for a 10- to 15-minute walk, two to three times a day, especially after meals. But make sure you’re close to a bathroom in case your bowels decide it’s time to empty.
One of the more common side effects of IVF egg retrieval is constipation, says Zeitoun. If you’ve been able to dodge this unpleasant condition, consider yourself fortunate. But if you’re dealing with bloating, discomfort, and pain, you might wonder why egg retrieval causes constipation.
According to Zeitoun, during an IVF cycle, progesterone levels are much higher than normal. And since progesterone is a muscle-relaxing hormone, it relaxes the colon, too, causing constipation.
Egg retrievals are performed under anesthesia to keep you asleep and comfortable during the procedure.
Because of this, Iris Insogna, MD, OB-GYN, and reproductive endocrinology/infertility expert at Columbia University Fertility Center, says some people may have constipation as a result of anesthesia, which may temporarily slow the bowels.
“It’s common to have a little fluid or blood in the pelvis after a retrieval, which can irritate the bowels, and some women may develop constipation as a result of that as well,” Insogna says.
Janet Choi, MD, reproductive endocrinologist, medical director of CCRM, New York, and Progyny medical advisory board member, says if your doctor gives you the drug Cabergoline to minimize ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) risks, you may also experience constipation.
In addition to natural remedies, Insogna says that yes, you can also use a mild laxative to help with constipation. “This may include stool softeners like Colace and laxatives like Miralax or senna,” she says.
But before you go buying up every brand in the store, talk with your doctor or a pharmacist about the best laxative for you.
Laxatives typically have different ingredients and strengths. Your doctor may want you to start with a mild laxative and work your way up to a maximum strength, especially if you’re new to taking them.
It’s important that you read the directions on the drug label and only take the recommended amount. Taking more will not produce better results.
Taking more than you need may make you sick and cause electrolyte disturbances, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea.
The strongest type of laxatives works by stimulating your bowels. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a stimulant laxative causes the bowel to squeeze, which moves the stools out.
Stimulant laxatives are meant for short-term use — typically only for a few days. They do not require a prescription, and you can buy a laxative at most grocery stores or pharmacies.
If a stimulant laxative is too harsh, you can also try a stool softener or emollient laxative. Stool softeners are a type of laxative but are gentler on your body than a stimulant laxative.
A stool softener does not cause a bowel movement, but it can help relieve temporary constipation by softening stools to make them easier to pass. They are available over the counter and come in tablets, capsules, liquid, or syrup.
Constipation may be incredibly uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it won’t affect embryo implantation.
While constipation may not affect embryo implantation during IVF treatment, other risk factors may contribute to recurrent implantation failure or RIF, including:
Constipation is a normal and common side effect after egg retrieval from IVF. In most cases, it only lasts a few days. But sometimes, it can persist until the next menstrual cycle.
To help with discomfort during this time, consider some of the natural remedies listed above, or talk to your doctor about taking a laxative. They can recommend the best course of action for you.