For those struggling to get pregnant due to fertility issues, in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be an option. IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology in which eggs are retrieved and fertilized with a sperm sample in a lab. The fertilized egg, or embryo, is then transferred to the uterus.
IVF Side Effects
There are some side effects and risks associated with in vitro fertilization. Side effects are possible during the ovarian stimulation phase due to the hormonal medications used. Patients can also experience side effects during and after the egg retrieval and embryo transfer procedures. These side effects can be managed easily with proper care and medication.
Side Effects from Medication
The symptoms you experience may vary by individual and can differ depending on the types of medication used.
- Soreness at the injection site
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Abdominal bloating and/or discomfort
- Breast tenderness or pain
- Weight gain
- Menstrual bleeding or spotting
- Difficulty sleeping
Rare & Serious Side Effects of Fertility Drugs
In very rare cases, some patients experience more severe side effects that require medical attention. If you experience these side effects, contact our office or seek immediate medical care. These rare side effects include:
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)
- Ovarian torsion (twisted ovary, associated with OHSS)
- Allergic reactions to medication
- Vision changes
Side Effects after Egg Retrieval or Embryo Transfer
The procedures used to retrieve eggs and transfer embryo are not invasive, but it is common to experience some discomfort during and after the procedure. Common side effects include:
- Mild cramping & bloating
- Small amounts of vaginal discharge (clear or slightly bloody)
- Breast tenderness
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience more serious symptoms like high fever (over 100.5 °F), severe pelvic pain, blood in urine, or heavy bleeding. It is rare, but infection and other complications are possible after these procedures.
Risks Associated with IVF
While using assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a viable way for couples struggling with infertility to build their families, it is not without risks. Risks are rare and pregnancies conceived via IVF have roughly the same risk levels as those conceived naturally. Before you undergo the IVF process, however, our team will always equip you with information about any possible risks.
It’s important to note that there is no evidence that there is a link between IVF and an increased risk of miscarriage. However, a miscarriage is always a risk to be aware of when pregnant, especially in the early stages of the pregnancy. The chances of miscarriage also increase with maternal age.
- Ectopic Pregnancy
Though embryos are placed directly in the uterus when IVF is done, in very rare cases (2-5%) an ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo does not attach to the uterine lining and develops in other parts of the reproductive system. The fallopian tubes are the most common place for ectopic pregnancies to develop, but it can also happen in ovaries, the cervix, or in the abdominal cavities. Ectopic pregnancies are not viable and cause serious complications. If not caught early enough or left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening bleeding.
- Conceiving Multiples
If you’ve been struggling to get pregnant, conceiving more than one baby probably does not sound like a bad thing to you. However, multiple births are linked to several different complications and present the highest risk in pregnancy. While patients undergoing IUI are more likely to conceive multiples, it is still possible in IVF. Complications associated with multiple births include:
- Increased chance of needing a c-section
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Premature birth
Because of advancements in IVF technology, there are ways to decrease the possibility of multiples. Talk to your fertility provider to discuss your personal treatment plan and what is best for you and your family.
- Premature Birth
In very rare cases, women who get pregnant via IVF may give birth before they reach full term. The risk of having a baby with low birth weight is also slightly elevated in mothers who conceive via IVF versus those who do so naturally. This risk decreases when frozen embryos are used rather than new and unfrozen embryos.
- Emotional and Physical Stress
Going through fertility treatment can be difficult for some patients. It can feel physically demanding due to the hormonal medications, the testing to monitor progress, and the retrieval and transfer procedures. The process can also be very emotional because of the hope and uncertainty involved.
Make an Appointment
At Laurel Fertility, we are dedicated to providing our patients with state-of-the-art medical treatment as well as individualized care as they take their fertility journey. We know that the process can be overwhelming and emotional, so we are there every step of the way. If you have questions or concerns about fertility treatments like IVF, call us at (415) 673-9199. You can also request an appointment online.