IVF pregnancy carries certain risks and complications that should be considered by individuals undergoing the procedure. These risks can arise from the IVF procedure itself as well as any potential complications that may occur during subsequent pregnancy. It is important to note that while these risks exist, they are generally low in occurrence.
The risks and complications of IVF pregnancy include:
1. Ovarian Hyper-stimulation Syndrome (OHSS): OHSS is a potentially life-threatening complication that can occur due to ovulation induction with exogenous gonadotropin therapy or IVF. Severe manifestations of OHSS include massive ovarian enlargement, hemoconcentration, third-space accumulation of fluid, renal failure, hypovolemic shock, thromboembolic episodes, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and rarely death. Clinics can avoid this by monitoring the hormone levels and ultrasound scans closely and adjusting the medication dosages or canceling the cycle if warranted.
2. Multiple Pregnancy: The greatest risk associated with IVF is having more than one fetus (multiple pregnancy). This can lead to serious complications for both the mother and newborns. Complications related to multiple pregnancies may include high blood pressure, diabetes, excessive bleeding in the mother, fetal demise, low birth weight in babies, and an increased risk of birth defects. Therefore, to prevent multiple pregnancies, IVF couples can opt for a single embryo transfer (SET) especially for younger couples.
3. Birth Defects: Babies conceived through IVF may have a slightly higher incidence of birth defects compared to those conceived naturally. However, it is unclear whether this increased risk is due to IVF itself or other factors contributing to infertility.
4. Pregnancy-Related Complications: Women who undergo IVF may have an increased risk of certain pregnancy-related complications such as preterm birth and preeclampsia.
IVF increases the risk of ectopic pregnancies, where the embryo implants outside the uterus, typically in the fallopian tubes. There could be heterotopic pregnancy to which one embryo is inside the womb but another one implants outside in the tube. This can be prevented by regular monitoring through blood tests and ultrasounds for early detection to enable prompt medical intervention.
5. Surgical Risks: There is a small risk (<1%) of surgical complications associated with the IVF procedure itself, including bleeding, infection, damage to nearby structures such as blood vessels or reproductive organs.
6. Increased Cost: IVF treatment can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance. The financial burden associated with IVF can cause additional stress and strain on individuals or couples undergoing the procedure.
7. Emotional and Psychological Impact: Infertility treatments, including IVF, can have a significant emotional toll on individuals and couples. The process may lead to feelings of frustration, stress, guilt, anxiety, and strain in relationships.
It is important for individuals considering IVF to discuss these risks, benefits, and alternatives with their healthcare provider before proceeding with treatment. Additionally, it is recommended that several cycles of less invasive infertility treatments are attempted before considering IVF as an option.