Egg retrieval is an important step of in vitro fertilization (IVF). A common side effect of this procedure is constipation, which occurs due to increased progesterone levels.

IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that may help people experiencing infertility.

Infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 or more months of sexual intercourse without birth control. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1 in 6 people of reproductive age experience infertility.

IVF involves fertilizing an egg with sperm in a laboratory.

Egg retrieval is an important part of IVF. Many people undergoing IVF experience constipation after egg retrieval.

Read on to learn more about why people experience constipation after egg retrieval, how to treat it, and whether it affects implantation.

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Egg retrieval is an essential step of the IVF process. People undergoing IVF receive hormone medications to stimulate the ovaries before egg retrieval takes place.

One of these hormone medications is human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). This triggers ovulation and the production of the hormone progesterone, which helps with the maturation of the eggs and the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy.

Constipation after egg retrieval may occur due to increased progesterone levels, which can slow bowel transit time.

Other factors that may cause constipation after egg retrieval include:

  • medication
  • anxiety or stress over the procedure
  • dehydration

Egg retrieval is the second step of IVF, where a fertility doctor removes eggs from the ovaries. The procedure occurs approximately 34–36 hours after a “trigger shot” with hCG or leuprolide acetate. A fertility doctor will use a vaginal ultrasound probe to visualize the ovaries and direct a needle into each follicle to aspirate follicular fluid and collect the eggs.

Afterward, people will undergo monitoring in the recovery area. Healthcare professionals will check their vital signs, including heart rate and blood pressure, and ensure the person is comfortable before discharging them.

In most cases, people undergoing IVF do not experience major side effects.

Side effects of IVF egg retrieval may include:

  • mild bloating and cramping
  • constipation
  • breast tenderness
  • passing of small amounts of clear or blood-filled fluid
  • vaginal bleeding

IVF fertility medications may also cause side effects, such as:

Other common causes of constipation include:

Doctors may recommend several approaches for the treatment of constipation after egg retrieval:

  • Hydrating with water and other fluids: Drinking plenty of water and other fluids before egg retrieval may help prevent constipation. If a person increases their fiber intake, they should also take care to drink more.
  • Eating foods high in fiber: Adults should aim to consume 22–34 grams of fiber per day. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
  • Being lightly active: Doctors do not recommend rigorous activity after egg retrieval, but walking or light activity can help get the gut moving and relieve constipation. A person can talk with a doctor about activity after egg retrieval.
  • Medications: A person can use over-the-counter medications such as stool softeners for a short duration to help with constipation. They can discuss stronger medications or laxatives for constipation with a doctor.

After egg retrieval, the eggs are fertilized by combining them with sperm. Doctors do this either by placing egg and sperm together in culture or by injecting the eggs with sperm. This results in the formation of an embryo.

Implantation is the process where the embryo attaches itself to the uterus wall to start the process of pregnancy.

Constipation does not affect implantation.

The success rate of IVF depends on several factors. The following may help improve the chances of IVF working:

Learn more about ART.

Egg retrieval is an important step in the IVF process. People can experience constipation after the procedure due to increased progesterone levels, certain medications, stress, or dehydration.

A balanced diet, proper hydration, regular exercise, and certain medications can help relieve constipation. Constipation does not affect the typical IVF cycle, but it is important for people to speak with a doctor before taking medications to treat constipation.