Painful tension headaches after faile... - Fertility Network UK

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Painful tension headaches after failed IVF - will try any suggestions to help


Failed IVF cycle - facing people and going back to work has initiated tension headaches which are there virtually constantly throughout the day. They're painful and making it hard to focus on work and my studying (I have 3 months to go to finish my masters). I find it's harder to cope being around people and pretending everything is ok as I know I'm not really ok. I feel like I'm acting my way through the day when people are around me just to get by. Some people know about what's happened but there's only so much they can say and the topic moves on (which I'm fine with - talking about it won't make us more fertile).

I know it's a stress thing to have a tension headache, and I actually work as a physio and have helped people to manage these in the past but can't seem to help myself. Perhaps the failed cycle has been the straw that's broken the camels back and caused mental overload. I'm really keen to get over it and get back to focusing on my work. My husband doesn't have headaches and has gone back to work stuff pretty effectively (albeit his concentration level isn't fully back to normal) - which is obviously good. I'm annoyed that I'm having them and they seem really out of my control and I feel that the more I try to work, the worse they get, but I'm also struggling to alleviate them at rest.

I've done things to help myself grieve for our loss to help release any excessive tension I'm carrying and try to let go. I've seen a counsellor at our IVF clinic who was understanding. Today we lit a candle in our local church to say goodbye to our little blasto & wrote a short prayer. I've talked my feelings through with close friends, family and my partner but am still at a loss to getting rid of these headaches. I have a dog so go walking each day which I enjoy, I've been doing some light reading, and tried a cold flannel on my forehead & self-relaxation but no relief.

If I cry the pressure in my head does release, but I can't make myself cry all the time to do this, and I just want to try to move on and not keep revisiting our loss.

Our BFN came as a surprise to me, I really thought it had stuck. We've had only BFN's over the years since we started trying, and we both so want to be parents (like everyone else on here of course!). We are unexplained infertility which is hard to handle. I feel like people must think I'm not good enough and that's why we can't have children, I know it's completely irrational and incorrect deep down, but I feel like for some reason it's all my fault. I feel like a failure.

If anyone has any ideas of what might help from a physical and psychological standpoint then I'd really appreciate it. I'm limited on time due to my MSc work but am prepared to try anything at this point. I'm not a great reader but enjoy podcasts/audiobooks.

I hope some of you out there can relate to some of this and hope I'm not sounding too moany.

Thank you for reading,

C xx

45 Replies

I’m probably going to suggest things you already tried but I have always suffered from tension headaches and some of these things help me sometimes. Are you taking anything? I find that paracetamol doesn’t touch the sides so I take two paracetamol and one ibuprofen (not during treatment) and that was under Doctors advice. You can take co-codamol. Hot baths, candles. Get hubby to massage your neck and shoulders. Heat, I lie with a hot water bottle on my head in a darkened room (that worked today!). Good luck xx

Thank you - I’ll try the bath & candles tomorrow - and will try some heat now.

Poor you having the more regularly - not nice at all!

I’ve tried codeine & paracetamol - might add ibuprofen tomorrow for a bit more of a boost.

Thank you xx

Had them since I was around 14! It can be depressing. It’s a catch 22 situation really. Hope you find some relief soon. Ps I agree with the suggestion of drinking lots of water as dehydration can cause headaches too xx

I'm so sorry to hear this. Life can be so cruel. I cant make any particularly useful suggestions but my first thought was drink at least a litre and a half of water each day, consider accupuncture and yoga? Yoga is the kind of activity where you don't have to talk to anyone and the poses absorb you so help take your mind off things. I also believe that when you work deeply in yoga it helps shift emotional traumas that are held in your muscles / body.

Thank you - I’ll look into finding some small groups that focus more on breathing/relaxation - feel like I need it to be as ‘down-time’ as possible.

I’ll see if I can get acupuncture for my head - I’ve had more global acupuncture but I feel like I really want the needles in my head to really get at the tension directly.

Thanks for the suggestions - hydration - I’m on it :) xx

Also, are you having any counseling? I think that would help as there is a lot to process and as you say, friends only talk briefly about it.

I’ve seen one at the ivf Clinic this week but was too tearful with grief to really get to the headache. Spoke to my DH after posting this and I think my issue is a feeling of anger/frustration. I think I’m a little bag of anger at the moment ☹️ - I need to try to let that go. Might try the counsellor again for this aspect - and maybe see if there’s a TED talk or something about it - thank you x

Continue going to counselling sessions a long with everything your doing, with time things with heal. And if you are feeling angry and frustrated then you need to completely let it out of your system xxx


Have you tried Accupuncture on the back of your neck or even in the centre of your forehead? I had these during IVF and Accupuncture helped release the tension. It was pure stress in my case.

Or very gentle yoga to stretch our your muscles and relax.

I know unexplained is very frustrating and confusing.

Sorry you are suffering so much. Xxx

Novice_knitter in reply to Hidden

Thank you - I’ll get trying to book some this week - really good ideas xx

Hidden in reply to Novice_knitter

Hope you can get some relief. Def sounds like you need some relaxation.


Novice_knitter in reply to Hidden

I so do!!! Xx

Hidden in reply to Hidden

Maybe headspace app until you can get so have some treatment or the counsellor miracle ideas but presume you will try anything.


Novice_knitter in reply to Hidden

Hey, thanks about headspace btw - they have an ‘anger’ course you can do, as well as a ‘grief’ one (I just looked it all up), so I’m going to try them tomorrow x

Hidden in reply to Novice_knitter

Ps try to avoid Ibuprofen when affects your lining apparently! I went off it and suffered like

Novice_knitter in reply to Hidden

ah ok - good tip - thankyou x

Hey Novice knitter. Like you I’m just getting over a bfn too, and I’m also suffering with awful headaches,I’m putting all mine down to over thinking EVERYTHING and stress. Booked myself in for a nice facial though today and the facial massage really eased my headache. Haven’t been doing to well with getting much water into me the last few days but that’s going to be my next aim. This really is just the hardest journey ever and really does just knock the wind out of you. I hope you start to feel better soon. Sending you lots of hugs and love at this extremely stressful emotional time ❤️

Thank you so much. I’m so sorry to hear that you also had a BFN - this is such a painful journey.

I’m probably due a facial so will get one booked - having my hair done on Monday so will ask for a head massage with it as a starting point 👍

These headaches are horrific aren’t they? I hope yours settles down soon too xx

So sorry to see your post. These headaches are so debilitating. I can’t stop long but wanted to mention homeopathy. I love it as it is designed for you and your circumstances eg they would help your headaches by giving you something for your grief. Maybe give it a go? xxx

Novice_knitter in reply to _MrsC

I’ll look into it - my acupuncturist know someone I think - thank you xx

Im sorry about the way you are feeling, although you must of done most of everything im thinking right now, i just wanted to say I really hope you start to feel better. I can some what understand how you are feeling upset, disbelief, hurt, heartbroken and all i can say is take it easy and have some ‘fun days’ in between of your studying and work.

Although you probably will never be able to take it off your mind maybe if you have some fun days and go for some reflexology, massages, spas etc may help? Yes it won’t help long term maybe but will help for the moment.....

This is just such a heartbreaking moment and its so hard to be able to express how you feel to yourself never mind anyone else. Its so hard to be able to confront and control the situation and when women say I can’t see a pregnant woman, I can’t go to baby showers etc I didnt feel that way before and now thats just how i feel.

Sorry for the long post in short words....look after yourself. There is nothing more important then you and your health and with out that you can’t continue this journey. Big hugs 🤗 xxxxxxx

You’re so right - thank you. It is really hard to recognise your own emotions & I think almost by knowing them better makes them a bit easier to manage. I’ve found an ‘angry’ section within the mindfulness app - I’m going to start working through that tomorrow - and try to get some massages booked in 👍

I think I am just going to have to pace myself with the fun/chill/treat days like you say, and see if I can get through it more easily that way. Uni have said I can have an extention if I need to which is good - but I’m keen to get it all done so I can get going with my next ivf round, at the same time though, will just have to see how things go...

C xx

Sounds like a good idea, i would personally get uni out of the way too. See how you go and we are always here too xxx

Hope this response is still in time to be helpful, I know a few of these things will have been mentioned but:

-Ibuprofen rather than paracetamol as it helps bring down inflammation and combat that 'squeezing' feeling in your head (if you know what I mean)

-I use headspace and it's a good app for day to day but I've found it doesn't do enough for my really bad days, have you tried Panic Shield instead (I use it for the tension headaches that sometimes come before a panic attack)

-Lots of hydration

- If you can sleep then a nap always helps me

- Reduce sensory overload; try putting on fresh bedding and lying down in a dark, quiet room with an ambient temperature and just focussing on your breath

Hope some of that helps, as a fellow sufferer I know how much those headaches suck x

Thank you so much - I’ll take all this on board & I’ll look into panic shield (I’ve not heard of this app).

It definitely helps to hear from a fellow sufferer and get your tips - I’m so surprised to hear how many people also get these.

I’m sorry about your panic attacks, I had one during our ivf cycle (after egg collection) and they’re truly horrible.

I’ll try the ibuprofen instead today - another fellow sufferer suggested this - it’s not something I would have tried myself - will give it a go and see

C xx


I get tension headaches worse when I’m tired so my first strategy is to try to get more sleep and to try to keep my blood sugar level.

An acupuncture session once sorted out a headache which wouldn’t go away and it was a while before the next one came.

Finally a cranial osteopath was a help in identifying that my shoulder muscles were ridiculously tight and she loosened them off through weekly sessions over a couple of months which helped.

You sound like you’re doing lots of the right things to help you grieve but you don’t mention a plan of what you’re going to do next- a plan of next steps helped me to move on after two bfns and 2 miscarriages.

Thank you Lizzie :)

Will look into treatment around my head/shoulder. Heat over my neck last night did help the headache so seems to be neck tension contributing.

We’re seeing out consultant next week to try to come up with a plan, effectively it’ll be another full ivf cycle. We’re going to wait till Dec now (after my MSc deadline) so we can have more time to focus on it and not be juggling too many things.


December really will be here in no time- I saw something yesterday that said 14 weeks to Xmas! You may feel much better after you see a consultant.

I find a hot bath or shower gives temporary relief but it doesn’t last once I get out from under the water. I bought a wheat bag designed for wearing around shoulders but it only helped a little.

I hope you have a better day today x

Thank you Hun xx

I’m so sorry to read this. I feel your pain. I suffer from migraines which are usually pretty under control - maybe once a month, but four failed rounds of IVF in one year completely destroyed my body, not to mention my soul. It took about three months after the final round and deciding to stop for the migraines to go back to a normal level. I had the opposite problem in that crying is a trigger for me! Imagine! I know tension headaches are different, but I actually found that mine finally improved after I stopped trying to constantly take drugs to get them to go away. I think I was taking so many that it made it worse! Good luck xx

Oh Hun I’m sorry to hear this. 4 cycles in a year sounds really hard to deal with. How interesting that you’re trigger is the opposite. Yeah I’ve heard about medication headaches - horrid for the poor sufferer who is actually just trying to bring their pain down!

I’ll be mindful about how much I’m taking for sure (haven’t taken much this week to be fair though).

How are you doing now? Are you getting any more fertility help? Xx

Hi, Im posting for the first time but your feelings resonate with my fears-in October we have our first IVF and similar to you it's unexplained fertility. I feel there is no golden advice that can help but two things have been working for me so far: the story that the nurse told me when taking my blood for testing-that she understands as she went through this as well, it didn't work but then they concieved naturally( no trying just happened!) and she has a son.. And another medical opinion with very liberating words: that although it happened to me it's random, it's not a punishment or failure, it's a random thing that happens in life. So now when I hear the nusty voice inside me "you are a failure" I'm answering back in my head" No, I'm not, its random...and it happened to me, its painful and disappointing but it happens randomly the same way as accident or cancer" Wanted to share with you in case it helps. Don't let this inner voice to consume you, grieve, be angry but not at yourself - you did everything what was there to do... Take care!

Thank you Lilly - sound advice there. I really need to try to blame myself less and hopefully I’ll feel less frustrated. I felt like this pre-ivf and then cane to terms with it, but this failed cycle has flared my feelings up again :-/ xx

Hi, just a quickie and I haven’t read all the replies... but I just wanted to say I totally hear you and feel for you.. I am a physio too and have had nothing but failed cycles and feel like somehow I’m not ‘good enough’ to deserve a child.. that I’m a failure etc etc and that eats me up and used to give me headaches as that thought process underlies everything.. I think our line of work is also very hard in this situ.. we are constantly helping other people with their pain and problems every 20-30 mins we have another patient and we have to smile and ask how they are try to ease their pain like emotional sponges- and yet we carry so much of our own pain- it’s very emotionally draining! I know you are doing your masters - but is there any chance you cd take a bit of time off work? I had a total breakdown last year and had a couple of months off in the end and it gave me the time to process my feelings.. I had cbt for low self esteem in a small group organised by my gp. It was honestly excellent - although I was very dubious at first and usually come across as very confident, internally I’m a anxious wreck with all these feelings of self doubt and failure and it has made me lose my self esteem.. so anyway the group was fantastic- it really helped me to break down and recognise my deep seated thought patterns and once you recognise them you kind of see yourself in a new reality as you understand the logic behind the mental patterning and it kind of sets it free. Obviously it doesn’t eradicate the hurt of your losses but it helps you not to stay in negative beliefs. It’s basically clinical reasoning your own individual beliefs and thought patterns about yourself that are unhelpful and exacerbating the headaches. I had lots of counselling too- but Cbt was the breakthrough for me. Anyway, I’m sorry for your loss- it is early days and as you know things do get easier, but if you can, I highly recommend taking some time off work - focus on your masters and more importantly yourself!! Xx

Novice_knitter in reply to Lu1u

Hi Lu1u,

Thanks for this. Yeah - whilst our line of work is really rewarding it can be hard to focus on other peoples problems all day when you have a pretty big one of your own to be contending with.

I've had CBT in the past and found it really helpful. I've tried to get counselling through my GP - have self referred to our local provider but have been waiting for an appointment since February. It's really bad in our area for getting access. I've been seeing the counsellor at our fertility clinic though, which is really helpful.

I've started the 'anger' section of headspace app which is going ok - only on day 2 today of a 10 session cycle. I think my anger/frustration with infertility is definitely a big factor in these headaches - as I write this I feel my headache coming on again. It's definitely improving with time though.

Once of the ladies above said that what helped her was her with this was her counsellor reminding her, and he reminding herself regularly, that this stuff is just random. Thinking like this is actually helping. So many 'fertile' people give well meaning advice on this journey - 'try taking this, try doing this, are you doing any exercise?, are you relaxing enough? are you doing too much exercise? are you using this app?' - it's hard not to somehow feel that you must be doing something wrong that most other people are getting right. It makes me beat myself up. I'm trying to let go of that now, and just say to people that this stuff is just random and that's that. Hopefully I'll start believing it more easily in time!

Nice analogy of clinical reasoning for the mind - definitely an MSK physio I think?! xx

Lu1u in reply to Novice_knitter

Hey, yes you are sooo right about the feelings of should have done this or that- I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve read or heard I should be taking one vitamin or another or eating certain things or not doing this And that! No fertile person ever takes the time to overanalyse every lifestyle factor like we do lol! .. my biggest problem was, (is), that I’m such a control freak and am used to achieving what I want (most of the time) .. so the fact that this is out of my control I’ve really struggled with!

Anyway, I do hope your headaches get better soon! Good luck with your masters! ..xx

Hello! Just wanted to ask if you feel any better? X

Hey hun, headaches are definitely becoming more intermittent (they were virtually constant last week) - today has been the biggest turning point :-)

I've been trying to make every day a fun day - like you said- at the moment which is helping (but my studying has suffered) - but I figure that needs to wait a bit until I can get through a normal day with less pain. I had my hair cut today and had a head massage with it which was nice. Am going to try to get a facial booked in at the weekend too.

One of the other ladies who replied said to keep in mind that this infertility lark just affects people randomly - it's helping me let go of some of the anger I'm carrying - headspace 'anger' app is also helping.

I should have some time at work tomorrow where I can work on some uni stuff though which will help get things moving work wise - but just have to keep pacing it and not overdo it. Am also generally trying to not let anything really wind me up - the moment I do the pain starts coming on!

Thank you for asking - and for your advice! :-) xxx

Your studying will get back on track, like i said before start with yourself and everything else will be ok. Because we long to be mothers we put everything first and ourselves last.

I hope you feel better, I’ve never heard of that app but im definitely going to try it too, get well soon and aaah a facial I definitely need one a ling with a nice massage 💆‍♀️😌 xxxxx

I hope it helps you too, the app is called 'Headspace' the starter bit is free but you have to subscribe to get more (£40-50 per year if you can get it on offer - but standard price £72 for the full service, which is where the 'anger' section, amongst other sections is). Might be worth doing the free trial and see what you think first. You can get it for less if you/DH is a student... x

Yes DH is a student so that will be good I will definitely look into it as i feel similar and I’m hoping it helps. Thank you xxx

Try doing it through website - he can get a really cheap Spotify&headspace bundle, or just headspace alone via headspace website. That’s so handy that he’s a student - it’s a massive saving! Xx

Ok i will, thank you for that. Im glad he is, it helps me out! 🤭😊😃


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