The pregnancy symptoms that may occur after in vitro fertilization (IVF) are no different from the early pregnancy symptoms any woman has. Once the embryos are transferred back to the uterus, if pregnancy occurs, it will proceed like any other. However, a woman who has undergone IVF must read any symptoms she experiences with caution. The IVF procedure usually requires women to take certain hormones that can cause pregnancy-like symptoms even in women who are not pregnant.
It is common for women begin feeling fatigued within days of conception (or in the IVF patient’s case, transfer). This symptom is caused by a surge in the hormone progesterone. In natural pregnancies, progesterone is released by the body in increasingly higher amounts as the hormone is necessary to maintain the lining of the uterus in which a fertilized egg implants. After transfer, IVF patients must take progesterone supplements or injections to maintain this lining. The fatigue an IVF patient feels after transfer may be due to the progesterone supplements, or it may be due to progesterone that is released by the body because a pregnancy has started.
Within one or two weeks after an IVF transfer, a woman may notice that she has swollen or very tender breasts. She may also feel her nipples tingling and notice that her aureoles have darkened. In early pregnancy, any or all changes to the breast can occur due to heightened levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone flooding the body. However, the IVF patient must take such changes with a grain of salt, since she is almost certainly taking progesterone supplements that can also trigger such symptoms.
Nausea is probably the most well-known sign of pregnancy. It is caused by increased amounts of hormones in the woman’s body. Sometimes nausea can begin as early as a week after conception. For the IVF patient, it may occur within days of the embryos being transferred back to the uterus. Despite this being the classic symptom of pregnancy, not all women become nauseated. Some women feel perfectly healthy, while others feel sick all day long.
A classic sign of early pregnancy is the need to urinate frequently. According to the March of Dimes, this symptom is caused, in part, by the production of the hormone human chorionic gonadtropin (hCG). HCG is made by cells that form the placenta, and under normal circumstances its presence in the body is a definitive sign of pregnancy. But many IVF protocols require the patients to take shots of hCG after transfer to help sustain a pregnancy if it occurs. Thus, if a woman has had an hCG shot, the frequent urination may be caused by the shot, and not pregnancy.
An IVF patient should expect her period to arrive approximately 14 days after transfer. If more than 14 days pass without a period, the patient may be pregnant. Sometimes, a woman may have a considerably lighter or shorter period than usual –this may be an early sign of pregnancy as well.