What is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is a condition in which ovaries become painful and swollen, and it is typically caused by fertility drug therapy. It is believed that this condition is often caused by drugs called gonadotropins. Gonadotropins are hormones that are used to help stimulate egg production in the ovaries. Other symptoms of the condition include weight gain and excessive hair growth.

Women who choose fertility therapy using gonadotropins typically undergo hormone injections over a 7-10 day period. One of two different types of gonadotropins is normally used for this purpose. One type is a follicle-stimulating hormone, the other type is a luteinizing hormone. Use of either of these hormones can sometimes lead to the syndrome.

In most cases, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome only lasts for about a week beyond the initial treatment. In the event that pregnancy occurs while a woman is suffering from this condition, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome can last for several weeks. Research seems to show that about a quarter of all women who undergo fertility treatment using gonadotropins will develop the condition.


Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is not usually considered a serious condition, but in some cases, the symptoms can go beyond swelling and pain. When women become pregnant while they are suffering from the syndrome, the symptoms are usually more severe, and often last longer. Mild symptoms can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. More severe symptoms often include weight gain, difficulty breathing, and water retention. There is also some evidence to suggest that women who have ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome may have an increased risk for miscarriage.

Some women are at much higher risk of developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Higher risk groups include younger women, women who have high levels of estrogen, and women whose body weight is below normal range. In addition, women who have previously had other hormone related ovarian disorders are also at higher risk for developing the condition.

In rare cases, women who develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome may suffer life-threatening complications. One of the most dangerous complications is blood clotting, which could occur in major arteries. Other complications could include ovarian rupturing and respiratory and kidney failure. It is estimated that less than 2% of women with the condition will suffer life-threatening complications.

Women who are involved in fertility treatment using gonadotropins are typically monitored for signs of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. The use of ultrasounds and other diagnostic devices typically help doctors determine if there is any swelling occurring in the ovaries. The condition normally goes away without any additional treatment, but pain medications are often prescribed until the symptoms subside.



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