We can all agree that social media has its pros and cons, but increasing awareness about little-discussed topics can be one of its many gifts. Chrissy Teigen's recent pregnancy announcement included a photo of IVF injection bruising on her leg, which led to an outpouring of responses from other women who have experienced the same thing.

IVF treatments come with a lot of shots. And if you're not used to getting injections, IVF bruises can be quite a surprise (and not a pleasant one). So we wanted to know how to avoid bruising from IVF injections, and who better to consult than a needle expert?

Dr. Anna Hsieh Gold, an acupuncturist and fertility specialist practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area, shares why IVF bruising happens and her top tips to minimize injection bruising. 

Why does IVF injection bruising happen?

In case you aren't familiar with IVF injections, the hormones required for treatment are injected into the fatty tissue below the skin. In some cases, injections are necessary several times a day, for several days in a row. The needles used are very thin, but because the injections are given just below the skin's surface, it's not uncommon for bruising to happen.

According to Dr. Gold, IVF bruising is caused by the needle nicking a capillary near the surface of the skin. "Although IVF medications are generally injected in places that have fewer blood vessels, like the belly or thigh, bruising is always a possibility," she explains. "But there are steps you can take to minimize the chances."

Related: Yes, you can eat fish while pregnant—study offers new info about pregnancy & mercury exposure

Here are Dr. Gold's top tips for minimizing bruising from IVF injections:

1. Use an ice cube before the injection

"Ice constricts blood vessels, which can reduce the possibility of bruising," she explains. When blood vessels are constricted, there is less blood flow to the area and, therefore, less bruising.

"As an added bonus, icing the area also numbs it, so you feel less pain when the needle goes in," she adds. Dr. Gold recommends wrapping an ice cube in a paper towel and placing it on the injection site for 10 minutes before your injection. 

Related: High blood pressure in pregnancy may be rising—especially among millennial and Gen Z moms

2. Try topical arnica

Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that has been traditionally used to treat bruising or pain. It works by helping to reduce inflammation and swelling. "Dab some arnica gel over the injection site and wait for it to dry," Dr. Gold advises. "Once dry, you can needle in that area."

You can find several types of arnica, but Dr. Gold recommends arnica gel instead of lotion because of its alcohol content. Since gel usually has more alcohol than lotion, it will evaporate and dry more quickly.

Boiron Arnicare Gel

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Arnicare Gel

3. Cool down inflammation with proteolytic enzymes

Proteolytic enzymes are enzymes that help break down proteins. Research suggests they may help reduce inflammation and swelling by helping the body repair tissue damage.

"Take a proteolytic enzyme like Wobenzyme that includes bromelain (a protein-digesting enzyme derived from pineapple) to lower inflammation, which can reduce incidents of bruising." You can find proteolytic enzymes in supplement form at most health food stores or online.

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Wobenzym'N Joint Health

4. Examine other lifestyle factors

The needles themselves may not be the only culprit when it comes to bruising. "If you're bruising a lot during IVF injections, you may need to adjust your diet, lifestyle and supplement regimen," notes Dr. Gold.

How does this work? Certain medications like blood thinners, aspirin or fish oil supplements can make bruising more likely. All these factors can thin your blood and make it more difficult for your body to clot, leading to more bruising.

Alcohol is another possibility, as it dilates blood vessels and can make them more fragile. A small glass of wine here or there is unlikely to make a difference, but if you're drinking more than that, it's worth taking a second look.

Related: To my friends going through IVF, I'm sorry I didn't understand

IVF is physically and emotionally demanding

Your body goes through a lot during IVF, so a little extra TLC to minimize IVF injection bruises may make the process a little easier on you.

Bruising may not be avoidable 100% of the time, but following these tips may help reduce the likelihood of IVF injections bruising.

If you notice excessive bruising, swelling, pain, or redness, always check in with your doctor to make sure everything is OK.

Featured expert

Dr. Anna Hsieh Gold, DACM, L.Ac, Dipl.OM, FABORM, is an acupuncturist and doctor of East Asian medicine specializing in women’s health and pain management.

Sources

Brien S, Lewith G, Walker A, Hicks SM, Middleton D. Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2004;1(3):251-257. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh035