What Are the Risks of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?

By (embryologist) and (babygest staff).
Last Update: 08/26/2015

In vitro fertilization performed for a surrogacy process follows the same process as in an own cycle with the only difference being the transfer, since the embryos are transferred to the uterus of the surrogate and not to the future mother.

For this reason, the possible risks derived from the in vitro fertilization process are also the same and are described below.

The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome

The main problem derived from IVF refers to the previous process of stimulation of the ovarian cycle. Regardless of who receives the stimulation treatment, the intended mother, or the egg donor, the medication given for this can lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

This hyperstimulation syndrome can cause abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, discomfort. It usually lasts about a week and the symptoms are due to inflammation of the ovaries. It is also possible that the syndrome leads to more intense symptoms such as weight gain or heaviness during breathing.

In more severe (rare) cases, it can cause an increase of fluid in the abdomen and lungs, which can lead to a larger ovary and lead to dehydration, shortness of breath, or severe, severe abdominal pain.

Currently, ovarian stimulation based on drugs such as clomiphene citrate, human menopausal gonadotropin hormone or luteinizing hormone is rigorously controlled by ultrasound and/or blood tests, so that it is possible to predict ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and therefore abandon treatment to avoid it.

Problems associated with IVF

In addition to OHSS, medication administered to promote ovarian maturation and control ovulation can lead to other risks, such as:

  • Mild pain and bruising at the injection site of the drugs
  • Sickness or vomiting
  • Swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Breast sensibility
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Mood swings and fatigue
  • Allergic reaction

There are also possible risks caused at the time of ovarian puncture, such as mild pelvic and abdominal pain. Less commonly occurring is a mild to severe pelvic infection or injury to organs near the ovary.

Embryo transfer and implantation

Other possible risks are those related to embryo transfer and implantation in the uterine cavity. The main risks are:

  • Ectopic pregnancy: it occurs when the embryo implants in a place outside the uterine cavity as in any of the portions of the fallopian tubes (isthmus, ampulla, infundibulum or fimbrias) or in the ovary, cervical canal or peritoneal or abdominal cavity.
  • Multiple Pregnancy: Multiple pregnancy carries more complication and risk than a single pregnancy. Therefore, it is important to know in detail the risks of transferring more than one embryo and to balance the risk/benefit of each situation according to the characteristics of the embryos and the uterus of the surrogate.
  • Miscarriage: Loss of the fetus after implantation can occur in about 20% of pregnancies. It usually occurs in the first few weeks of gestation.

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Authors and contributors

 Andrea Rodrigo
Andrea Rodrigo
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information about Andrea Rodrigo
Adapted into english by:
 Marie Tusseau
Marie Tusseau
Babygest Staff
Editorial Director of Babygest magazine in French and English. More information about Marie Tusseau

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