Possible Complications from IVF

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment represents one of the greatest medical advancements of the 20th century, but as with many medical treatments, there are possible complications associated with IVF.

It’s important for the patient to report unusual or unexpected symptoms to her doctor right away, as they may be a sign of a complication. Some of the complications associated with IVF treatment are:

Ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS) – Though OHSS is generally rare, IVF patients should be aware of the symptoms of this condition and report them to their doctor if they experience them. OHSS can occur when the patient experiences sensitivity to the drugs used to stimulate the production of eggs. The condition is more common in women under the age of 30 who experience polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and it typically develops in the week after egg collection. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea or vomiting.

Ectopic pregnancy – An ectopic pregnancy is a condition in which the embryo implants outside the womb. The majority of ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube. But the fallopian tubes are not capable of holding a developing embryo, and so the embryo cannot develop properly. According to the American Pregnancy Association, an ectopic pregnancy occurs once in every 50 pregnancies.

There are several factors that increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy:

  • Maternal age of 35 – 44 years
  • Previous ectopic pregnancy
  • Previous pelvic or abdominal surgery
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Several induced abortions
  • Conceived after having a tubal ligation or while an IUD is in place
  • Smoking
  • Endometriosis
  • Undergoing fertility treatment or using fertility medication

Signs that can indicate an ectopic pregnancy include sharp or stabbing pain in the abdomen, pelvis, shoulder or neck; vaginal bleeding; gastrointestinal symptoms; or weakness, dizziness or fainting. A patient who experiences any of these symptoms should consult with her doctor right away.

Multiple Pregnancies – It is not uncommon for a fertility specialist to transfer more than one embryo in the IVF process in order to increase the chances for implantation and pregnancy. Yet this can lead to multiple pregnancies, and multiple pregnancies can introduce certain risks for the female and the babies she is carrying. According to the National Health Service, UK, (NHS) “One in every 12 twin pregnancies results in at least one baby dying or having a significant disability, and twin pregnancy increases the risk of most pregnancy-related health problems for the mother.”

The US National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus notes that multiple pregnancy babies have a much higher risk of being born prematurely or with low birth weight. They are also at greater risk for disabilities.

IVF patients can reduce the risk of multiple births by requesting a single embryo transfer, which is encouraged by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Fertility specialists can help their patients understand the risks associated with IVF so they can weigh them carefully before deciding if IVF is right for them.