IVF is a well-known method of assisted reproduction. In this process, a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg are mixed in a laboratory bowl, and after that, the fertilized eggs are transferred to the uterus of a woman, where they can embed in the lining of the uterus and develop.
Advances in modern technology and understanding of fertility standards have increased success in both post-IVF pregnancy rates and live birth rates.
IVF medications and procedures usually do not cause any serious complications.
However, as with all medical treatments, there is always the potential for some risks.
What Are the Side Effects of IVF Medicines?
Injectable fertility drugs are commonly used for an IVF cycle and they help stimulate multiple follicles along with the egg to grow in the ovary.
Possible side effects of injectable fertility drugs include:
- Breast tenderness and increased vaginal discharge
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)
- Mild bruising and pain at the injection site but changing the injection site can help solve this problem to a great extent
- Short-term allergic reactions, such as redness or itching of the skin at the injection site
- Mood swings, fatigue and tiredness
- Occasional nausea and vomiting
- Flatulence and abdominal pain
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is a very rare but serious complication of the treatment of ovarian stimulation.
In the first stage of IVF, mild nausea, bloating, and ovarian discomfort may occur, usually within a few days after egg collection.
However, very rarely OHSS is caused by a build-up of edema fluid within the chest and abdomen, resulting in enlarged ovaries, dehydration, shortness of breath, severe abdominal pain, and rapid weight gain.
Other symptoms include decreased urine output, dyspnea, nausea and vomiting.
Mild OHSS can be treated by stopping the cycle immediately and with complete rest, but some severe cases may require intensive management, including paracentesis, to relieve ascites.
Although there is some concern about the link between reproductive hormones with cancer, no evidence has been provided so far in this regard.
Risks of Egg Retrieval
The doctor use an ultrasound-guided transvaginal follicular aspiration of both ovaries to retrieve the egg during hatching. Potential risks to this process include:
- Damage or injury to organs around the ovaries, such as the bladder, intestines, or blood vessels. However, any serious damage to organs that may require surgery or hospitalization is rare.
- Mild to severe pelvic infections can occur after the egg is received or the embryo is transferred. However, these infections are now uncommon because antibiotics are usually given during egg collection.
- Mild to moderate pelvic and abdominal pain that disappears in a day or two and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications.
Risks Related to the Embryo Transfer
An embryo is slowly placed in the uterus by using a catheter. When a catheter is inserted through the cervix, mild cramping may be felt and vaginal spots may follow.
An infection can develop, which is very rare and can be treated with antibiotics.
During the process of IVF, more than one fetus is usually transferred to a woman’s uterus to maximize the chances of a successful pregnancy. It helps in preventing multiple recurring cycles.
However, sometimes keeping more than two embryos in the uterus increases the chances of multiple pregnancies.
Multiple pregnancies can pose certain risks to both mother and baby such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, hydramnios, premature labor, complicated delivery, delivery by cesarean section, etc.
The fetus is at risk of congenital malformations, premature birth, low birth weight, and the need for intensive neonatal care.
Sometimes these children may also have complications such as lung development problems, intestinal infections, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, language delay and behavioral problems.
The higher the number of embryos transferred to the uterus, the higher the risk.
Dr. Shivani Bhutani at Eva Hospital, who is helping couples give birth to healthy babies through IVF, says that to give a doctor a higher chance of pregnancy with the lowest risk of multiple pregnancies The minimum number of embryos must be transferred.
Also Read: What is Endometriosis and its Types
IVF and the Risk of Birth Defects in the Baby
In the general population, there is a 2-3% risk of birth defects. This risk tends to be slightly increased in infertile patients mainly due to the delay in pregnancy and the root cause of infertility.
However, it is debatable whether IVF alone is responsible for the birth defect.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) when done with IVF, may increase the risk of birth defects.
With ICSI the risk of sex chromosomal abnormalities may also be slightly increased.
Whether these risks are due to the ICSI procedure itself or problems with sperm is still uncertain.
Chromosomal abnormalities are more likely to be present in men with sperm defects, which may be passed on to their offspring. The good news is that these abnormalities are rare.
Babies born through IVF are likely to have low birth weight. They might have higher fasting blood sugar and blood pressure levels than normal babies.
The effects of cerebral palsy, mental illness, and developmental delays are somewhat more common in these babies than in naturally occurring babies.
Miscarriage and Ectopic Pregnancy
Although the miscarriage rate after IVF is similar to the rate after natural conception, there is a slight risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy with IVF.
In an ectopic pregnancy, the woman may be given medications to end the pregnancy or may have surgery to remove it.
All pregnancies involve certain risks. This risk is slightly higher in percentage after IVF.
But all of these risks are usually rare and can be managed if the procedure is performed by a competent fertility specialist who uses the safest methods and techniques and carefully monitors the pregnancy.
The happiness and joy of parenthood far outweigh these risks. Techniques have been greatly improved and revolutionized.
If apprehensions of potential risks are putting you off IVF options, make an appointment with Doctor Shivani Bhutani to get a clear understanding of all aspects of treatment and side effects before making a decision.