Learn About IVF Risks & Complications

The process of IVF is not without side effects or risks. Side effects are typically from the medications taken during the cycle and risks are typically related to egg retrieval and embryo transfer.

There are certain risks associated with the procedure of egg retrieval, which involves the introduction of a needle into the abdomen and ovaries to aspirate egg containing follicle. Despite the fact that it is a simple, safe and quick procedure, the experience of the surgeon is crucial and possible complications are rarely unavoidable.

To date at PFC-LA, we have performed over 6000 egg retrievals. The following is a list of our own complications and their rate of occurrence:

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is a condition whereby because of the production of multiple eggs (usually over 25) fluid accumulates in the abdomen causing swelling, discomfort, nausea, vomiting, pain, difficulty breathing and urinating. The incidence of mild OHSS occurs in about 10% of cases and severe OHSS in

Woman resting her head peacefully on man's shoulder
  • Bleeding is relatively common during an egg retrieval. Most bleeding is controlled with simple pressure and resolve without further need for any intervention. Occasionally, a suture is placed to control a vaginal bleeder. The cause of this bleeding is often a blood vessel in the vaginal wall that the egg retrieval needle hit. It is very similar to having blood drawn. If pressure is not applied, most of us would bleed from the site of blood drawing for few minutes. Rarely however, there could be internal bleeding from the ovaries as they are punctured. In the vat majority of cases, we would jut observe the patient for few hour and discharge her home after the bleeding has stopped. The risk of bleeding requiring hospitalization is roughly 1 per 3000 retrievals.
  • Infection can result any time a needle is inserted into the abdomen through the vagina, or a catheter into the uterus, there is the risk of introducing pathogens or bacteria and therefore causes an infection. This is why we give prophylactic antibiotics during the egg retrieval to prevent such infections. The risk of serious pelvic infection is less than 1/6000.
  • Damage to nearby organs such as bowel, uterus, bladder, nerves etc. We fortunately have not had a single case where any of these possible complications have occurred.
  • Ovarian Torsion. This is when the ovary twists on its pedicle and requires surgical intervention to correct it. The incidence is in the order of 1/6000.
  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is a condition whereby because of the production of multiple eggs (usually over 25) fluid accumulates in the abdomen causing swelling, discomfort, nausea, vomiting, pain, difficulty breathing and urinating. There are different degrees of OHSS. It can be very mild with minimal symptoms that resolve over a matter of 2-3 days or it can be severe requiring abdominal drainage of accumulated fluid (ascites) and occasionally hospitalization. The incidence of mild OHSS occurs in about 10% of cases and severe OHSS in <1% of the time.
  • Ectopic Pregnancy occurs when the pregnancy grows outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. It happens twice as often with IVF compared to natural conception with an incidence of 5%.

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