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Risks of Fertility Treatment

Like all medical treatments, fertility treatment carries some risks and your clinic should discuss these with you before you go ahead.

Risks can include reactions to fertility drugs that may be prescribed, and also the risks associated with any pregnancy. Other risks, of which some are not yet fully understood, relate to the children born as a result of the treatment.

Drug reaction

What it is: A mild reaction to fertility drugs. Symptoms: Hot flushes, feeling down or irritable, headaches and restlessness. What to do: Contact your clinic if you have any unexpected reaction to treatment. You will have been provided with an emergency contact number. Always call rather than worry.

Multiple Pregnancy

Most multiple pregnancies following IVF treatment result from the implantation of more than one embryo. Therefore, the chance of a multiple pregnancy increases with the number of embryos that are transferred. Multiple births carry risks to the health of the mother and the unborn babies. The babies are more likely to be premature and to have a below-normal birth weight.Babies born from a triplet pregnancy have a 20% chance of a major handicap ,17 fold increase in the cerebral palsy, and a 20 fold increase in death during the first year after birth( as compared to a singleton pregnancy).

Reducing multiple births – one way to greatly reduce the risks associated with multiple births is to reduce the number of embryos transferred without impacting on the pregnancy rates.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

What it is: A potentially dangerous over-reaction to fertility drugs used to stimulate egg production. It is very rare for this complication to occur with mild fertility drugs such as clomifene. Even with the powerful gonadotropin drugs used in some cases, OHSS symptoms are mild.

Patients at risk for OHSS

Are those with PCOS, high estradiol levels,and those with many small er follicles(,12 mm) at the time of the hCG administration.However many patients who develop OHSS do not have any risk factors.The symptoms usually develops generally 7-10 days after hCG administration.

Symptoms: Swollen stomach and stomach pains. In severe cases, nausea and vomiting, severe stomach pains and swelling, shortness of breath, faintness and reduced urine output. Patients who develop strong OHSS symptoms generally do so during the week after egg retrieval. Cysts develop on the ovaries and fluid collects in the abdomen.

In severe cases (about one –two per cent) your ovaries become very swollen and fluid may distend the abdomen and (rarely) enter the chest cavity.

On occasion, OHSS can be life-threatening.

What to do: If you start to experience any of the above symptoms you must contact your clinic immediately. Never feel you are wasting the clinic’s time. If you are badly affected you may have to be admitted into hospital as an emergency.

Birth defects

Although some research suggests that fertility treatment may be associated with an increased incidence of birth defects, this risk remains low.

Research to date does not show with absolute certainty that any increased risk is due to fertility treatment. Other causes cannot be discounted, including underlying subfertility in the parents, their age and unexplored factors.