IVF Risks


Going through in vitro fertilization can take an emotional and physical toll on a couple, not to mention the pain it could inflict on their pocketbooks. Because there’s so much hope and potential disappointment that goes along with IVF, a couple may experience stress, anxiety and depression. In addition to the emotional risks of IVF, there are also some very real physical risks.

Fertility drugs can make a woman bloated: she may also have stomach pain, headaches, and mood swings. If she’s injecting IVF medicine, she may have to give herself (or have her partner give her) several injections a day – her skin and muscles can become bruised from all the shots.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is one potentially severe side effect of IVF. A recent study found that up to 33% of IVF patients may develop mild OHSS, and three to eight percent of patients may develop a severe case of the condition. OHSS causes fluid to build up in the chest and abdomen. OHSS symptoms may include bloating and abdominal pain; extremely fast weight gain – for example, a woman may gain 10 pounds in three to five days; urinating less, even when the woman is staying well hydrated; shortness of breath; and nausea and vomiting. If OHSS is mild, the woman should go on bed rest. If it’s severe, the excess fluid may need to be drained from the body with a needle.

About 0.2% of women undergoing IVF can experience adnexal torsion, which occurs when the ovary twists on itself and cuts off its blood supply. The fallopian tube can twist too. If a woman has OHSS, she’s at greater risk of adnexal torsion. She may experience nausea, vomiting and pain or tenderness in her lower abdomen. If the condition’s not caught early enough, the ovary could die. Adnexal torsion’s usually diagnosed by ultrasound, and treated with laparoscopic surgery to untwist or even remove the ovary.

GnRH agonist drugs, which are sometimes used in IVF treatment, have been shown to cause cysts in about 15% of women. Because these cysts can produce estrogen, they may negatively affect IVF cycles. Still, even if a woman develops a cyst, her doctor will probably tell her to stay on the fertility drugs, because the cyst may clear up on its own. If it doesn’t, it may need to be drained with a needle.


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