While first-timers have heard all the warnings about injectable medication side effects, many are most alarmed at the idea of giving themselves at-home injections. This is especially hard to imagine for anyone who’s had a fear of needles or shots.
Fortunately, as the women who participate in more than 270,000 IVF cycles each year can attest, giving yourself IVF injections at home is not nearly as scary as you’d think.
Here are five simple things you can do to make IVF shots easy and pain-free.
You’ll only use injectable medications for eight to 15 days of your cycle. The shots are prescribed depending on what’s required. Typically, there are four different types of shots:
- Gonadotropins (FSH, LH or a combo): stimulate multiple eggs to mature at the same time
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and GnRH antagonists: prevent ovulation until we’re ready
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and Lupron (a type of GnRH agonist): Also known as “the trigger shot” this shot catalyzes the release of the eggs that matured
- Progesterone: Progesterone supports implantation. It can be administered subcutaneously via a shot or you may have the option to use a vaginal suppository to support target progesterone levels for conception.
The injections are administered at the same time, every day, once a day. Some may require two injections per day. Regardless, the medications are carefully labeled and the instructions are clear as a bell. Plus, our staff is here to answer any questions you might have. You’re never alone!
IVF shots are subcutaneous. That term means “under the skin.” The injections are administered in the fat layer under the skin and above the muscle. That’s why they’re usually done on the cushier parts of the body, such as the tummy or the top-upper quadrant of the bum (the love handle area).
This is far simpler, easier, and less “clinical” than an injection requiring direct access to a vein or muscle. So, once you get it down (or your partner does – see next), you’ll hardly even have to look to get the needle in place, push down the injection plunger, and remove the needle. It will become second nature in no time.
And, while you’re a brave, self-injection-administering hero at home, you’re supported in spirit by all of the millions of other Americans that administer subcutaneous shots daily (and indefinitely) for things like diabetes, blood clotting disorders, and severe asthma reactions.
If you have a serious problem with needles or shots and can’t overcome the nerves, enlist a team of IVF injection partners to help you. In this scenario, you can close your eyes while someone else plays doctor for you.
Again, the key is to ensure your willing participants are available at the same time each day. For some patients, this means enlisting the help of a friend during the workday and relying on a partner, close friend, or family member during weekends.
The first day or two will take longer than any of the others because it’s all new. Then, you can perform the following steps in three minutes or less.
- Wash your hands and clean your preferred injection sites with alcohol. Let it dry.
- Remove the needle cover, hold the needle upside down, and flick it a couple of times to move any air bubbles out of the syringe. Then, slowly push the plunger until a drop appears at the tip of the needle.
- Turn the needle so it’s perpendicular to the floor. Pinch a section of skin at the injection site and use a firm push to insert the needle into the skin. You don’t need to stab, but it does require firm intention to get into the right spot. Once the needle is in, let go of the pinched skin.
- Slowly press on the plunger until the plunger stops at the bottom of the skin. Then remove the syringe and use clean gauze or a cloth to apply pressure to the injection site gently.
- Reapply the needle cap and throw the needle out in a puncture-proof container. Many patients use a mason jar or something similar. Once it’s full, you can throw the container and all in the trash.
The great news is that It took you longer to read those five steps than it will take to complete your injections once you get used to it.
We mentioned some of your resources above (partner, friends, colleagues, wanna-be Dr. Greys), but that list is even bigger than you’d think. There are multiple other resources for you to lean on when it comes to feeling prepared, informed, ready, and empowered to do IVF injections at home.
- Your fertility specialist and nurses. The nurses are happy to help you get the hang of it using practice shot techniques. Then, we can always schedule an appointment for your first (or second, or third) injection so you can do it in our office. By then, you’ll be set to do them on your own.
- Online video tutorials. There are lots of video resources available online with real women, giving themselves real IVF injections. A great starter video is This One from Phil & Alex. Alex is a nurse, gives great instructions and tips, and we love her reminder that giving yourself IVF injections is nothing compared to all of those nights spent sobbing on the floor.
- Fertility support groups. Your fertility support groups are another place to receive expert advice, tips, and tutorials on how to give yourself IVF injections at home. Groups meet in person and online, so there’s options for everyone. Also, even reading through Infertility Blogs provides a sense of community as well as a wealth of experienced IVF wisdom – including tips and tricks for IVF injections at home.
Are you nervous about IVF shots? Are you feeling insecure about administering them at home? Connect with us here at Reproductive Resource Center. Our team is here to support you in any way we can, and that includes providing all of the tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years.