The Risks Of IVF Treatment
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a very complex procedure and there are many potential risks. While fertility treatment drugs rarely cause serious complications, it is important that couples understand the potential risks and side effects of IVF treatment before they begin treatment.
Multiple pregnancies occur in around 10-30% of IVF assisted cycles. Recent data from the USA shows that 32% of pregnancies after IVF were twins and 7% were triplets or more. The statistics for multiple pregnancies are higher due to the number of eggs or embryos that are transferred. The number of embryos is directly related to the risk level and this is a decision that is usually taken in consultation with the patient's physician.
For many couples who are struggling with infertility, the prospect of multiple pregnancies is exciting. However, the risks of maternal and fetal complications are higher in multiple pregnancies. There is a greater risk of late miscarriage or premature delivery. Women carrying a multiple pregnancy may need to spend weeks or months in bed resting during the pregnancy.
There is an added financial, emotional and physical strain with multiple pregnancies that puts pressure on many couples. A recent option for women concerned with multiple pregnancies is the use of selective fetal reduction. This is a controversial procedure and there is about a 10% risk of miscarriage for the remaining fetus with this procedure.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
Occasionally ovulation stimulation from the fertility drugs can lead to ovarian Hyperstimulation (OHSS). The effects of this condition range from abdominal bloating and tenderness to the rarer occurrence of liver and kidney disorders.
OHSS occurs when huge amounts of estrogen pour into the abdominal cavity. This "leakage" can cause the ovaries and abdomen to swell alongside dizziness and discomfort. Rarely hospitalization is required for this condition.
IVF can be a very physically demanding procedure. It involves many blood tests, hormone stimulation, anesthetic and operations. It is common for women to suffer from lethargy and fatigue as a result of treatments.
Additional risks from IVF include injuries to the bowel, bladder and blood vessels during the removal of eggs through an aspirating needle.
There is also a significant psychological risk in IVF treatments. The process can require a lot of time, money and energy and does not guarantee that couples will get pregnant. The treatments are lengthy and costly and do not have a high first time success rate. Couples often feel times of anger, frustration and sometimes depression. Family support is crucial at these times.
Despite the potential risks and complications of IVF, it is important to remember that the risk for birth defects is not increased with IVF treatment. Over a hundred thousand babies have now been born after successful IVF treatment.