When I started trying to get pregnant on my own, my doctor told me that we could try a minimally invasive procedure called IUI three times, and if it didn't work, we'd move to IVF. When my third IUI didn’t result in a pregnancy, I was full of dread because I knew what was coming next: needles. While IVF has a much higher chance of resulting in a pregnancy, it requires injecting yourself with hormones, which can be a sticking point (pun intended) for many.
I had seen the photo of Amy Schumer’s bruises from the injections, and I thought for sure that was going to be the worst part of trying to get pregnant.
It wasn’t. I’m not going to say it was pleasant, but by the end, the injections were barely even an issue for me. The first night it took me 45 minutes to muster the courage to do all the shots, and on the last day, I was down to 15 minutes. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat for the end result.
Here are some IVF injection tips to help you get through your shots.
1. Your Clinic Will Train You
You are not just handed some needles and told to go nuts. Your clinic will provide you with resources for successful injections, from a training session with a nurse to a printout of what to inject each day to physically drawing a circle over the IVF injection sites. My clinic also directed me to the great, free videos from Freedom Fertility on preparing and injecting your medications. Rest assured that even if you're doing the injections solo, you'll have the resources you need.
2. Do It Yourself
I know—the idea of giving yourself a shot sucks and you don’t want to do it. It probably seems easier to give the responsibility to someone else. For those of you with partners, it is valid to want them to give you the shots to involve them in the process.
However, I would really recommend that you do it yourself, if possible.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to get the medications in your body one way or another at approximately the same time every day, so you should be prepared to do it if your partner is unexpectedly unavailable. Exposure therapy is a real thing, and injecting yourself will eventually make it less scary. Furthermore, you are the one feeling what is happening to your body, so it’s easier for you to adjust if something doesn’t feel right. Finally, coordinating the process with another person can add hassle and make it more of an “occasion” to stress about. If you can just knock it out by yourself, then you’ll be done more quickly.
Having said all of this, if your injections are consistently causing you intense pain or anxiety, talk to your doctor.
3. Be In a Peaceful Space
Sure, by the end of your stimulation, you might be able to jab yourself in the bathroom while you’re at a concert, but particularly for the first time, try to create a nice, relaxing atmosphere before giving yourself the injections. Light a candle, have some music on—whatever will help you concentrate and ease the tension.
4. Ice, Warm, and Rotate
The most common advice on internet forums is to ice the injection spot beforehand (even 30 seconds is enough). Not only is this one way to make IVF injections less painful, but some of the medications can burn a bit after injection, and this lessens that reaction. There are also over-the-counter numbing creams you can try, like lidocaine.
Also, some medications may sting more if they are injected cold. Ask your doctor or nurse about bringing medications to room temperature to avoid this.
Finally, make sure you rotate the injection site so you’re not sticking yourself in one place over and over. I did my injections around my belly button and my nurse told me to inject a different quadrant each night.
5. Be Mindful
Deep breathing can have very real effects on your nervous system, helping you quiet anxiety and stay calm. Do a couple of rounds of deep breathing or a quick meditation before giving yourself the injection, and when it comes time to stick yourself, breathe in and inject yourself as you breathe out. (Note: if you experience vasovagal reactions or feel faint around needles, talk to a doctor as you might need to contract muscles instead of relaxing them.)
6. Treat Yourself
You did a thing that is hard and not fun at all—congratulations! Do something nice for yourself when you’re done, whether that’s treating yourself to a food you enjoy, relaxing with your favorite show, reading—whatever makes you feel good. This process is grueling on you and your body, and it’s important to acknowledge that and be kind to yourself.
7. Remember Why You’re Doing This
I can promise you that in a few months, you probably won’t even remember having to give yourself injections (of course, you’ll have a whole host of other problems but that’s a separate article…pregnancy is a joy). In total, this is just a few hours of your life in service of something that you really want, and it will be over before you know it.
A certain amount of this process is just finding what works for you. Some people prefer slow injections, others fast ones. Some swear by having hard candy in their mouth while doing it, and still others advise a small vibrator near the site to distract from pain. Hopefully, you will find, like me, that the injections were not as bad as you thought they would be and that there is plenty of support out there to help you through them. Good luck!