In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a resource for women facing fertility problems. This procedure has helped women who face pregnancy difficulties to conceive. When you’re considering undergoing IVF to become pregnant, you’ll want to understand the risks that the medical procedure carries. While the reward — conception — is worthwhile, you’ll want to be informed about your health and the procedure’s risks before you make any medical decisions.
When you undergo IVF, you start with hormones that shut down your pituitary gland. Through injections, you receive other hormones that stimulate your ovaries into releasing multiple eggs at once, instead of the single egg that your body normally releases during each menstrual cycle.
Unfortunately, doctors don’t know the correct dosage that will work for you specifically until you start receiving the hormones. You often have to go through several hormone treatments before finding the correct dosage. While medical professionals monitor you closely, some women report extreme discomfort due to the change in hormones in their bodies.
Twins, Triplets, or More
Image via Flickr by Dan Bock
Some IVF treatments insert more than one zygote into the uterus at one time to increase the chances of implantation. If more than one zygote implants, multiple fetuses can develop. Fertility treatments have a 16 percent chance of resulting in a multiple pregnancy, compared to the 1 or 2 percent chance during natural conception.
Before beginning treatment, research medical care professionals and talk to your fertility specialist about implanting one embryo at a time into your uterus.
When a fertilized egg implants in tissue outside the uterus, an ectopic pregnancy results. This implantation can occur in the fallopian tubes. While a zygote can’t survive outside the uterus, a tubal pregnancy is likewise dangerous, and you can risk hemorrhage and other problems.
Surgery can remove the ectopic pregnancy. However, no medical procedure can turn an ectopic pregnancy into a uterine pregnancy.
Some studies suggest that IVF increases a woman’s risk of certain types of cancer. Although recent research suggests that IVF and breast cancer likely don’t have a link, other types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer, still cause some doctors concern.
Most professionals agree that the possible links between cancer and IVF need further study, especially as IVF treatments change. However, know that research has not disproven the possible link between IVF and cancer, even if cancer is an unlikely outcome.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
A small percentage of women who undergo IVF end up experiencing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which causes the ovaries to painfully swell. Sometimes, symptoms are more severe and may include vomiting, weight gain, and severe pain.
You should know the health risks of IVF before you undergo treatment. By doing so, you won’t necessarily dissuade yourself from pursuing your dream of becoming a parent. Rather, by understanding these health risks, you can make an informed decision and pay attention to your body. Find a reputable fertility specialist and discuss the risks and rewards associated with IVF, especially as they apply to your body specifically.