In Vitro Fertilization: Complications

Among various assisted reproductive technologies, In Vitro Fertilization is one of the most commonly sought procedures. This is because it offers overall safety for the patients, and the chances of sustaining pregnancy through this method are quite encouraging. However, like most other assisted reproductive methods, some complications can arise. Couples considering an in vitro fertilization should be aware of such complications.

Complications due to Hormonal Supplementation

During the preparatory phase leading to the actual procedure, many types of fertility medications are administered to the patient. While in some women the concentration of such drugs is rather low, it can be high for women who cannot ovulate in the required manner.

Please understand that the IVF treatment is aimed at ensuring the success and survival of the embryo and not correcting the ovulatory cycle of the woman. However, in order to produce useful eggs that can be used for the treatment, the ovulatory cycle is often supplemented with such medications. These medications often include hormone supplements and can induce complications like:

  • Premature detachment of placenta from uterine tissue, leading to failure of pregnancy.
  • Increased hormonal concentration can become unregulated if not handled with care, and stimulate the first phase of gestational diabetes.
  • There is a high likelihood that effects of over-supplementation are carried into the pregnancy. As a result, chances of miscarriages during the third trimester are likely.


The biggest threat arising from an unprofessionally conducted hormone administration is OHSS or Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome developing. This is a serious health disorder, and there is no immediate cure once OHSS is diagnosed.

Among the hormones used in IVF, gonadotropins are the most common group of hormones injected. Apart from triggering ovulation, these hormonal drugs can also cause over-stimulation of the ovarian tissue that leads to OHSS. Hormones that can cause OHSS include all the standard IVF-related supplementation hormones like:

  • HMG (Human Menopausal Gonadotropin)
  • FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone)
  • HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin)
  • LH (Luteinizing Hormone)

OHSS symptoms can quickly overcome the woman, inducing problems like:

  • High propensity to weight gain, leading to obesity
  • Abdominal cramping/bloating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Repeated bouts of vomiting even after childbirth
  • Lowered metabolic rate

Multiple Births

This problem arises when the personnel executing the IVF don’t follow the guidelines issued for the safety of the patient. Multiple births have been long associated as a possible threat with IVF. However, this can be easily prevented if just one embryo is implanted at a time. To reduce the number of IVF sessions for their patients, some clinics place multiple embryos. This creates the risk of multiple embryos developing simultaneously.

Multiple births are a major threat to the health and the survival of an IVF mother. It can cause extensive uterine tears along with loss-of-pregnancy and many other kinds of obstetrical issues. It can even lead to premature births and death of the newborn.

Other Complications

  • Uterine bleeding as a side effect of the anesthesia used during repeated egg retrievals.
  • Misplacement of the embryo within the uterus can cause extensive blood clotting or embolism apart from raising chances of hemorrhage or excessive bleeding.
  • Repeated egg retrievals and embryo implantations can cause vaginal and uterine infections. The infections can spread to the bowel and bladder or any of the pelvic organs.
  • Women undergoing IVF tend to have short phases of high blood pressure than can be fatal in women with an underlying cardiac condition.
  • Babies conceived through IVF may be born before term with an alarmingly low body-weight.
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