She was inspired to share her experience with IVF treatments as part of the #WhatImGoingThru campaign on Instagram.

By Faith Brar
October 02, 2019
Credit: Instagram/@annavictoria

It's been almost two years since Anna Victoria, CEO and founder of the Fit Body app, started sharing her struggles with infertility. The fitness influencer has regularly taken to Instagram and her YouTube channel to keep her followers in the loop as she endures these challenges. On top of switching up her diet and workout routine, Victoria has undergone a series of fertility treatments in an effort to get pregnant—none of which have worked for her as of yet.

Currently, she's in the process of starting in vitro fertilization (IVF), a popular fertility treatment that involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries, inseminating them with sperm in a lab, and inserting the fertilized embryo into the woman's uterus. Sounds easy enough, right? It turns out, prepping for IVF is actually much harder than it seems—something Victoria understands all too well.

In a recent Instagram post, she shared a photo of herself looking so bloated that it's easy to mistake her for being pregnant. In her caption, she explained that her rounded belly is actually the result of the egg retrieval process, which has apparently taken a huge toll on her body.

"I want to preface this by saying that when I took this photo, I didn't realize how much of a prego pose this was," Victoria wrote. "So no, this isn't what it seems. This is actually the bloating that lasted 5 solid DAYS from the egg retrieval. A part of me isn't sure what was more painful, the procedure itself, or the bloating that resulted from it. The answer is probably both."

ICYDK, egg retrieval is an important part of IVF treatment, and it's not as straightforward as it sounds. For starters, there's a lot of prep involved. (Related: Should You Get Your Fertility Tested Before Wanting Kids?)

When you ovulate, your ovaries tend to release one mature egg into the fallopian tube, where the egg then sits and waits to be fertilized with sperm. But during egg retrieval, doctors aim to gather as many mature eggs as possible in one procedure, according to Extend Fertility, a fertility clinic based in New York. To find out the quantity and quality of her eggs, a woman has to undergo ovarian reserve testing, according to Mayo Clinic. These tests aren't invasive, but they do require ultrasounds and blood tests to analyze hormone levels and determine how a woman's ovaries will eventually respond to fertility medication. (Related: Is the Extreme Cost of IVF for Women In America Really Necessary?)

After that testing, the woman is injected with fertility medications, prompting her body to make enough hormones to develop multiple eggs. These injections are usually administered every one-and-a-half to two weeks, per Mayo Clinic. During this time, the woman will also undergo more blood tests to monitor her reaction to the medication. If all goes well, she undergoes one final injection 36 hours before the egg retrieval process, which encourages the body to release the eggs. (Related: Could a New at-Home Conception Kit Compete with IVF?)

As you might imagine, many women experience side effects to these hormonal medications, including headaches, mood swings, insomnia, hot or cold flashes, breast tenderness, bloating, and/or mild fluid retention, among other symptoms, as Parents previously reported.

Then there's the egg retrieval process itself. The surgical procedure first requires the patient to receive a mild sedative; then a needle is inserted into the ovary through the vaginal wall, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Doctors are usually able to procure 15 to 20 eggs in one procedure, and about 80 percent of eggs are usually viable, according to Extend Fertility.

While there are no stitches or scars, there are still a few side effects of the surgery, as Victoria shared on Instagram. "I know it doesn't look that bad, but it felt a lot worse than it looked," Victoria wrote alongside her photo. "I couldn’t sit or stand or even move for the first three days without wincing in pain or bracing myself. I’m used to having a really high pain tolerance and battling through, but this really knocked me on my booty. Thankfully I am pretty much fully recovered now and I find out today when I am cleared to exercise (hopefully tomorrow!). Even then, I'm definitely going to ease into it for the first few days."

Victoria was inspired to share this update of her fertility journey as part of the #WhatImGoingThru campaign on Instagram. The movement was created by  Sophie Gray as a response to "the mental health epidemic that has been accelerated by social media," Victoria wrote in her post. (Did you know Instagram is the worst social media platform for your mental health?)

"I've felt it. Many of us have felt it. And it scares me that the younger generations have and will feel it, too," Victoria wrote. "While there's nothing wrong with highlighting our best moments on Insta, it's important to talk about our struggles, too. Whether that's an infertility struggle, a weight loss struggle, a financial struggle, or a relationship struggle, everyone is going through something. But from the looks of Insta, you'd never know..."

That's the message behind #WhatImGoingThru: to be transparent and vulnerable about your struggles, and admit that it's hard to weather the storm sometimes.

"There have been so many physical, mental, and emotional ups and downs this last year," Victoria shared. "And while I'm resilient AF, I'm not going to pretend it's been easy, and I don't want to pretend."