In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a long-proven reliable technique that allows you to become parents despite the obstacles from your own body. However, any intervention does not go unnoticed. Therefore, before entering a reproductive program, one should be aware of all the possible IVF stimulation side effects. This will help the couple make the final decision whether the woman should go for it herself or use the services of a surrogate mother.
IVF side effects: from serious to minor
The main cause of IVF side effects is injections of hormonal medications. And only in vanishingly rare cases, their occurrence is associated with the embryo transfer procedure itself. Let’s consider the side effects of injections before IVF first.
Many people believe that one of the IVF stimulation side effects is the development of oncology. However, there is no evidence that hormone use itself causes cancer .Hormone therapy can indeed provoke the growth of existing cancer cells. Therefore, before IVF, it is very important to undergo an examination and inform the doctor about the previously diagnosed oncology. Depending on the health condition of the future mother, the doctor will decide on admission to the reproductive program or offer the services of egg donors and, possibly, a surrogate mother.
Important: studies have shown an increased risk of endometrial cancer with hormonal stimulation in women with polycystic and overweight. However, it should be noted that for women with such disorders, the baseline risk of uterine cancer is increased by 6 times, regardless of the presence/absence of hormone therapy in the anamnesis. In this case, weight gain is not an IVF side effect, but a factor that makes IVF dangerous.
The most annoying side effect of stimulation before IVF is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). The syndrome manifests itself as a systemic reaction to stimulation of the ovaries, of organs and organ systems. The main symptoms are a feeling of heaviness and bloating, abdominal pain, swelling of varying severity, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, emotional disturbances up to the development of depression. There are four stages: mild and moderate often go away on their own, but medical supervision is required. Severe and critical require immediate hospitalization and treatment. The reproductive program will have to be interrupted.
The incidence of the syndrome rarely exceeds 3%, but still not zero. For timely correction of the condition, inform your doctor about any side effects of injections before IVF that you notice in yourself. However, keep in mind that discomfort and tingling in the abdomen, as well as other symptoms, are not always signs of OHSS. These phenomena are, in principle, typical at the stage of provoking superovulation.
Another common side effect of IVF is decreased immunity and allergic reactions to hormonal injections (usually local). In the overwhelming majority of cases, these phenomena go away on their own.
Some women report weight gain among the side effects of IVF. Here’s what doctors say about it: weight gain with successful IVF (that is, the onset of pregnancy) is the norm. However, keep in mind that excessive weight gain is bad for pregnancy, so eat for two instead of doubling. And don’t forget about gymnastics for pregnant women.
When it comes to weight gain as a side effect of failed IVF, most often it is «stress eating». The weight shall not increase if the correct diet and physical activity are present. If all conditions are met and you still gain weight, please contact an endocrinologist
Mood swings after embryo transfer and during hormone stimulation are normal body responses to increased hormone doses.
To summarize, the side effects actually associated with IVF for the mother are as follows:
- Pain and tingling in the abdomen;
- Disorders of the gastrointestinal tract;
- Allergic reactions;
- Mood swings;
- Decreased immunity.
Side effects of IVF for the mother: before and during pregnancy
A separate layer of negative effects of IVF is observed directly or immediately after the embryo transfer.
Extremely rare cases of bleeding as a result of intestinal perforation or vascular injury during oocyte retrieval have been described. Most often this is due to the low qualifications of the doctor.
But inflammatory processes and infectious complications as side effects of IVF for the future mother are more common, but in relative terms they are rather low. These are mainly relapses and reactivation of previously revealed infections.
On internet forums devoted to ART, women often complain of headaches after IVF transfer. Headache is not always a mandatory phenomenon after IVF transfer and its direct consequence. In some cases, this is associated with increased pressure, stress, overwork, lack of fresh air. However, whatever the reason, it is possible to relieve a headache after IVF transfer with antispasmodics (No-shpa) or any other medication that has helped a woman before.
Mood swings after embryo transfer are taken for granted by doctors and women who have dealt with ART. And this is the correct perception of the phenomenon, since mood swings after embryo transfer are a natural consequence of massive hormonal therapy, firstly, and anxious expectations of the transfer results, secondly.
A fairly common negative effect of IVF is multiple pregnancy. Thanks to medical support and the transfer of several (usually no more than 2) embryos, both can implant. This is considered a complication of the procedure by reproductive medicine standards, because even a single pregnancy is a serious challenge for a perfectly healthy woman. However, everything is relative: many women, upon learning of such a pregnancy, are delighted. And under the supervision of an experienced doctor, they carry it safely. Therefore, it is possible to call the expectation of twins a negative effect of IVF with reservations.
Rarely, but still there is an ectopic pregnancy after IVF. Approximately 4-5% of embryo transfers end with implantation of the ovum into the fallopian tube. At risk are women who have had an ectopic pregnancy earlier, women with fallopian tube surgery, who have had gonorrhea or chlamydia, as a result of which scars have formed in the tube cavity. Measuring the level of hCG in the blood helps to track the pathology at an early stage: normally, from the moment of a diagnosed pregnancy, the level of hCG doubles in two days. With an ectopic pregnancy, the increase in chorionic go****ropin is much less pronounced. If a woman is worried about aching abdominal pains, spotting in combination with a delay in menstruation, nausea or vomiting, you should immediately inform your doctor about this. The earlier an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed, the higher the likelihood of maintaining fertility.
The most reliable advice to reduce the influence of side effects: be in touch with your doctor, share with him any observations and concerns, even if they seem stupid and overcautious to you. The birth of a healthy baby is an extremely good reason for insurance.