Risks of In Vitro Fertilization

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a clinical procedure and fertility treatment process by which the egg cells are mixed with male sperm in a dish. Once the eggs are fertilized, they are then placed into the woman’s uterus so that a healthy pregnancy can occur. Although this procedure gives hope to many couples that are having difficulty conceiving a child, it does involve several risks such as: 

Ovarian Hyperstimulation

A “Superovulation” technique is used, which can bring on ovarian hyperstimulation. A mild episode of ovarian hyperstimulation can include symptoms such as mild bloating and cramping, but although it is rare, more severe complications such as liver and kidney damage can occur.

Allergic Reactions, Bleeding and Infection

Like with all surgeries and medical procedures, there is always a risk of an allergic reaction to the medications or to the administration of anesthesia. Although the risk of infection is low with transvaginal follicle aspiration (egg retrieval and aspiration), at about 3 percent, there is still that risk and the risk of infection at the site of fertility injections.

Ectopic Pregnancy, Miscarriage and Premature Delivery

Medical studies show that about 2 to 5 percent of pregnancies from in vitro fertilization are ectopic pregnancies. Also, with in vitro fertilization, there is a higher risk of miscarriage or premature delivery.

Multiple Births

Because many eggs are fertilized and implanted into the womb, there is a greater possibility of having a multiple pregnancy. The couple is not always prepared emotionally or financially to cope with more than one birth at one time. Also, the hospital stay may be longer for multiple births.

Physical Demands and Emotional Risks

A process of this sort can be physically demanding for both the female and male partner. In addition, there is the emotional risk of the failure of treatment. A lot of time and money can be exhausted with a low statistic of first-time success rates. If after many assessments and testing procedures including fertility injections, there is no pregnancy, anger and depression could be a result of the process.

Higher Cancer Risk for IVF Children

Medical studies show that there is a higher cancer risk for children who were conceived through in vitro fertilization treatment, with leukemia and brain cancers the most common ones. The reason is not because of the procedure itself, but for other reasons:

  • Parents who seek this type of fertility treatment often have a genetic predisposition to the disease (cancer) already.
  • Because test tube children are often born prematurely, they often have more breathing difficulties, which are normally linked to a higher risk of cancer disease.

A medical study performed on 27,000 in vitro fertilization babies in Sweden between the years of 1982 and 2005, indicated that 53 of these children developed the disease, rather than the 38 of the other children who did not develop the cancer. This shows an increase of 42 percent with regards to cancer risks.

It is important to note that although these children are more at risk for cancer, the overall percentage for children to be at risk for this disease with in vitro fertilization is still low.

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