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IVF Benefits and risks

There are benefits and risks to most medical procedures including in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Side effects

Patients may experience side effects at different times in the IVF process.
  • Gonadotripin stimulation: Gonadotropin stimulation is designed to recruit multiple follicles and eggs. These drugs can cause side effects such as mood swings and headaches. They can also cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

    OHSS is a serious medical condition that can result when the ovaries have been overstimulated. In the early stages of the condition, ovaries become suddenly enlarged with an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. Early warning signs of OHSS to be aware of include: pelvic pain, nausea, vomiting, weight gain, and reduced urine production. In more severe cases, fluid may accumulate in the lungs, causing breathing difficulties. If an ovary ruptures, blood can also accumulate in the abdominal area. Other complications that may occur include severe fluid imbalances, which can also cause blood clotting problems such as inflammation of veins, stroke, and lung clots.

    In rare cases, complications from OHSS, including blood clotting problems and/or breathing difficulties may be life threatening. Some women, such as those with polycystic ovarian syndrome, run a higher risk of hyperstimulation and should be identified before treatment begins.
  • Egg retrieval: Moderate discomfort, bleeding or infection may occur after ultrasound guided or laporascopic retrieval. Organs near the ovaries, such as the bladder or bowel, are rarely damaged during surgery.
  • Embryo transfer: The transfer of embryos to the uterus can cause mild cramping. It is also possible that embryos move into the tube and implant there, resulting in an ectopic pregnancy.

Finally, the IVF process can be psychologically stressful. Patients may benefit from taking steps to reduce stress, such as maintaining good health, utilizing relaxation techniques and seeking support and counseling.


According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), when pregnancy is achieved through IVF:
  • The rate of miscarriage is about 32%, similar to that of the general population.
  • The risk of ectopic pregnancy is about 5%, four times greater than in the general population.
  • The chances of carrying twins is about 25%, and 5% for triplets or more, increasing the risk of complications related to multiple pregnancies, such as miscarriage, premature labor or gestational diabetes.

Some studies have suggested there is an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who use certain fertility drugs. However, those studies are controversial and further research is needed. It has been suggested that this population of women may have a greater underlying risk for developing cancers for the same reasons that they are infertile. This is not to say that infertility causes cancer; it does not. Moreover, research shows that pregnancy itself reduces the lifetime risk of ovarian cancer.

One recent study found that infants conceived through IVF have a greater risk of low birth weight. Another study found that IVF infants have a 9% risk of a major birth defect, compared to 4.2% in naturally conceived infants. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine questioned the findings regarding birth defects, noting they differ from the results of several other studies showing no differences in birth defect rates between children of IVF and naturally conceived children. American Society for Reproductive Medicine urged more research to resolve these discrepancies. American Society for Reproductive Medicine also recently reported that studies show children of IVF display normal development in the cognitive, socio-emotional and motor skills areas. Any concerns regarding the long-term effects of IVF, with or without ICSI, should be discussed with your healthcare provider, who may recommend that you meet with a genetic counselor.


In the United States, more than 170,000 assisted reproductive technology (ART) babies have been born since 1985. American Society for Reproductive Medicine reports an IVF success rate of 29.4% per egg retrieval, and a delivery rate of about 30%. Success rates vary among clinics and by the patient's age. The success rates of our IVF Specialists in India vary from 32 % to 45% based on age. They increase with the number of cycles attempted, but level off or decrease after four cycles.

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