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What are Common IVF Risks?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 28 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Common in vitro fertilization (IVF) risks include multiple pregnancy, complications related to ovarian stimulation, and failure of IVF treatment. Risks vary, depending on a patient's age and a doctor's level of experience. Patients interested in minimizing risks should discuss them thoroughly with their doctors so they can learn more about IVF risks and make an informed decision about IVF and the management of an IVF pregnancy.

Many of the IVF risks identified in studies of IVF pregnancies, such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, are believed to be related not to IVF, but to multiple pregnancies. Using assisted reproductive technology is more likely to cause a multiple pregnancy, and such pregnancies come with increased risks, including birth defects for the babies, preterm labor, and other potential complications. Studies linking IVF with increased genetic risks like the development of birth defects have difficulty controlling for all factors, and some researchers suggest that many of these risks could be better attributed to carrying multiples than to using IVF for pregnancy.

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People using their own eggs for IVF are at risk of some complications as a result of ovarian stimulation, including an increased risk of cancer in the future, the development of cysts, and a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Medications used during this process can also potentially have side effects, creating IVF risks. Once the eggs are harvested and embryos are cultured in the lab and implanted, the primary concern is failure of treatment. IVF can fail for a wide variety of reasons and in addition to being costly and frustrating, can also be emotionally traumatic.

If the pregnancy implants successfully, the risks are similar to those associated with any other pregnancy, with no known special IVF risks. A woman carrying a single fetus who is in good health has a relatively low risk of complications as long as she receives regular prenatal care. Women carrying multiples have increased risks associated with the pregnancy because of the multiple fetuses. For this reason, people are sometimes advised to consider a procedure called selective reduction, where the size of the pregnancy is reduced for safety.

A fertility specialist should be able to provide a patient with a comprehensive overview of specific IVF risks for a particular case and can offer information on reducing or addressing risks. Patients concerned about risks may also find it helpful to meet with people who have successfully completed IVF to learn more about their pregnancies and experiences during IVF treatment.

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