Side Effects and Risks of IVF Treatment on Mother and Baby

IVF: Side-Effects and Risks

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sanjana Sainani (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

IVF, or in vitro fertilization, is a very specialized procedure in which the female eggs or ova are removed from the female reproductive system and then the eggs are fertilized by the sperm under laboratory-controlled conditions in a culture dish. The name of the procedure is in vitro fertilization because the fertilization occurs in a dish, and not inside a woman’s body.

Side-Effects and Risks Associated with IVF Treatment

There are several side-effects and risks involved with IVF. Some of these are:

1. Multiple Births

If more than one embryo is implanted in the uterine wall, IVF upsurges your probability of multiple births. This can result in the onset of preterm or early labour and birth of low-weight babies. More than three embryos should not be implanted to the uterus to avoid the chances of multiple pregnancies.

Multiple Births

2. Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension (PIH)

Mothers who have undergone IVF procedure are known to have high blood pressure (generally above 130/90 mm of Hg).

3. Reaction to Fertility Drugs

Many women complain about nausea, hot flushes, breast tenderness, insomnia, mood swings, and irritability. Some of the other IVF medication side effects are abdominal discomfort, vomiting or bloating. Consult your healthcare provider for aid. Painkillers like paracetamol can be taken to reduce swelling and pain.

4. Heavy Bleeding

Heavy uterine bleeding is also observed in mothers after attachment of IVF embryo.

5. Need of C-Section for Childbirth

Usually, C-section has to be done after the end of term so that any IVF risks to mother related to normal delivery can be avoided.

Need of C-Section for Childbirth

6. Anaemia

This is the result of heavy uterine bleeding in some mothers. Blood transfusion becomes highly important to save the life of the woman in case of severe anaemia.

7. Preterm Delivery and Low Birth Weight

According to various studies, the probability of preterm delivery of babies and low birth weight babies are higher with IVF.

8. Miscarriage

Miscarriages or abortions are very frequent with IVF as the embryo is fertilized in a laboratory under controlled conditions and do not undergo the normal procedure, the uterus often declines to implant the embryo. The frequency and rate of miscarriages increase with increasing age of the mothers and use of a frozen embryo.

9. Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

In IVF, fertility-enhancing drugs like injectable HCG (human chorionic gonadotropins) are utilized for improving the chances of ovulation. There are some IVF injections side effects. The human chorionic gonadotropins results in swollen and painful ovaries (the ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome). The signs and symptoms of hyperstimulation syndrome are bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, discomfort and diarrhoea. The severe case of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is accompanied by sudden weight gain and breath shortness.

10. Complications Associated with the Egg-Retrieval Procedure

Ovums or reproductive eggs are retrieved from the ovaries with the help of aspiration needle which can lead to bleeding, infection, or damage to the bowel, urinary bladder, or blood vessels.

11. Birth Defects

There are some IVF risks to the baby. Babies born by IVF procedure are more prone to developing congenital birth defects according to some experts. However, some experts also believe that the age of the mother is the primary risk factor related to birth defects and not the IVF procedure.

12. Ectopic Pregnancy

It is a fatal situation in which an embryo starts developing inside the Fallopian tube rather than the uterus. Even if the IVF procedure implants the embryos to the uterine wall in the uterus, in some cases ectopic pregnancy might still occur. How Ectopic pregnancy exactly happens is not well understood, but it is more common in women who have undergone some damage in the fallopian tubes. This is a severe problem. An ectopic pregnancy can result in abdominal pain, the unusual rise in pregnancy hormones and vaginal bleeding.

Ectopic Pregnancy

13. Diarrhoea and Nausea

Some hormonal tablets incorporated inside the vagina during the IVF procedure can result in diarrhoea and nausea. The hormonal injections are very painful, hence bruising can occur. To reduce swelling and pain, you can perform cold compress on the injection site.

14.Ovarian Cancer

This is one of the most dangerous IVF side effects in mothers. Some experts believe the notion that there might be some co-relation between drugs/medicines used for stimulation of egg in IVF and development of some certain type of tumour in the ovaries. But this point is still not proved by research.

15. Psychological/Emotional Toll

Undergoing the IVF procedure is highly emotional, stressful and physically demanding experience. The ups and downs of emotions, the occasional visits to the clinic, the high levels of hormones and all the pressure of undergoing invasive procedures and taking care of medication protocols; all of it takes a toll. Fertility treatment can push mothers to their far limits, and the process can easily cause problems in relationships, especially at a time you need emotional support to sail through. Garnering sufficient support from relatives, friends, and professionals is very essential.

16. Stress

IVF is generally an expensive procedure. It affects you physically as well as emotionally. Psychological support from spouse, counsellors and friends can reduce your apprehensions and tension because of the procedure.


17. Hot Flashes

Hormones are known as the chemical messengers of the human body. They carry signals from one part of the body to the other. Alterations in hormone levels might change how your body perceives temperature, resulting in sudden hot flashes. You might also figure that you grow winded more easily or that you are more sensitive to heat.

18. Headaches

Some mothers experience severe headaches after drug injections during IVF procedure, specifically in the time period immediately after an injection. If you have headaches related to your menstrual cycle, this might mean that you are more prone to hormonal shifts, and hence more prone to headaches induced by IVF as well.

19. Anxiety

As we already know that physical infertility can induce anxiety. The IVF procedure can also induce anxiety, as regular doctor’s appointments and injections continuously redirect your mind towards your fertility problem. You might feel anxious about issues like your inability to get pregnant or the effects of treatment.

20. Changes in Mood

The drugs taken during the IVF procedure stimulate your ovaries to make multiple eggs, hence upsurging the probability of you getting pregnant with each cycle. Though the multiple drugs that you intake will depend on your fertility issues, oestrogen is mostly a part of the drugs. High dosage of oestrogen may cause frequent mood swings or depression. If you undergo more than one IVF cycles, you might find that you experience less frequent mood changes with the second cycle.

IVF is a boon for many parents who have trouble conceiving for different fertility-related issues. It gives them a chance to realize their dream of having a child and a family. While IVF is generally safe and is highly recommended by specialists, it also comes with a few caveats that are worth considering. Ensure that you discuss and understand the side-effects and risks of in vitro fertilization with your doctor before you undergo the procedure. It is highly imperative for you to make a wise decision and know about the risks and side-effects of IVF procedure. This can help you prevent any complications and have a successful procedure without worries.

Also Read:

IVF Success Tips
Twin Pregnancy With IVF
In Vitro Maturation

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