Undergoing fertility treatment usually includes a long list of tests, procedures, and medications. But what is not commonly discussed are symptoms like constipation and bloating. This guide explains why this happens and how to best manage common symptoms of IVF.

 

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Whether you’ve already started IVF or you’re preparing for your first fertility clinic appointment, you’re probably wondering what effects this journey will have on your body. In order to see the day when those two lines appear, you may have to endure some unpleasant aspects, including one very common symptom: constipation.

Is constipation more likely to occur during fertility treatments?

Unfortunately, yes. During fertility treatments like IVF, you’re given hormones as well as sedatives. Many believe that progesterone can cause constipation by altering the regulation of g-proteins. It’s also hypothesized that sedatives can have certain effects on the body, including constipation. 

Why constipation is more likely to occur during IVF

Not only are you taking added hormones, prenatal vitamins, and medications when going through fertility treatments, but your body is also experiencing a lot of changes. The removal of eggs, consumption of fertility drugs, and sedation for surgery can put a lot of stress on your GI tract.

What treatments lead to constipation

Egg retrieval, a key step in the IVF process, is a treatment commonly followed by constipation, bloating, and cramping. IUI can also lead to a change in bowel movements which can include constipation or diarrhea. The Center of Reproductive Medicine explains that this can also be a side effect of high levels of HCG, a key hormone during early pregnancy.

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What medications may result in constipation

There are a host of medications that can cause constipation, including common over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, iron supplements, and antidepressants. The most common medications prescribed during fertility treatments that may result in constipation include:

  • Clomid: an ovulatory stimulant 
  • Various gonadotropins: hormones that orchestrate the reproductive system
  • Metformin: a common drug given to women with PCOS to regulate hormones
  • Letrozole: an ovulatory stimulant

Ways to manage constipation

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking more water can help loosen stool that’s preventing bowel movements. 
  • Keep moving. Exercise is a great way to keep your body running smoothly, so try going for a walk, doing yoga, riding a bike, or whatever will get you up and moving. Ask your doctor what type of exercise is safe during fertility treatments. 
  • Take fiber or magnesium supplements. These supplements can help the digestive system work more efficiently and are pregnancy/TTC safe.
  • Look into a squatty potty. The way we sit can have an impact on our bowel movements, and it can be much easier to poop with your feet elevated while on the toilet.

Benefits of taking fiber

Fiber is a useful gastrointestinal supplement for nutrient absorption and regulation of blood sugar levels. You can find dietary fiber in fruits, vegetables, and grains, but there are also readily available fiber supplements on the market. One review found soluble fiber improves constipation and average number of bowel movements per week. Fiber can even help with preventing hemorrhoid formation. 

The fertility journey

Fertility treatments can be emotionally and physically exhausting. But it’s also a beautiful, humbling, and exciting journey to take (read more about eight positives of fertility treatments). With a growing family comes a changing body, and it’s important you know how fertility treatments can impact your wellbeing. Constipation is likely to arise when undergoing various treatments and medications, but it’s also manageable with fiber supplements and lots of water! As always, Natalist is here to help support you in this journey. Check out the fertility treatment blog, and reach out if you have any other questions.