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Why You Can't 'Just Do IVF': The Risks of IVF

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Why You Can't 'Just Do IVF': The Risks of IVF

In this blog we will cover:

  • The complications and risks of IVF treatment.

  • Deciding on how many embryos to transfer.

  • How to know whether you could be eligible for NHS funding.

  • Some information on how to manage the two week wait period; the period from after the embryo transfer to the day you are due to take the pregnancy test.

If you haven’t done so already, make sure that you read the first two parts of this series. Just to recap;

Part 1 of this series discussed the first part of the cycle from deciding your treatment plan to the point of egg retrieval….and

Part 2 of the series covers the in-vitro fertilisation process, embryo transfer and what happens after the embryo transfer.

So let’s continue.

IVF: Potential Complications

Generally, IVF is safe and the risk of serious complications is low. As with almost all procedures, there are some risks associated with IVF treatment.

Risks of IVF include:

Multiple pregnancy

IVF can lead to increased chance of a multiple pregnancy e.g. twins or triplets. This risk is greater when more than one embryo is transferred into the womb. Multiple pregnancies are higher risk pregnancies than pregnancies with a single baby.

The mother is at greater risk of having conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia during pregnancy, or the need to have surgery by Caesarean section, with the potential risks of surgery such as serious bleeding.

There are also risks for the babies such as premature birth before the lungs have fully developed, or even the loss of one or more babies.

The BFS recommends single embryo transfer to reduce the chance of having a multiple pregnancy, and to improve overall safety of the IVF process. This is discussed later in this blog.

Due to the increase in multiple births from IVF treatment, the HFEA set a goal to reduce the national multiple birth rate. In 2008 the multiple birth rate was 24% i.e. just under 1 in 4 couples who had fertility treatment gave birth to more than one baby at a single time. In 2017 it was down to 10% i.e. it had reduced to 1 in 10 couples, and in 2019 it was 6%, approximately 1 in 20 couples.

Side Effects from the medications used

The range of side effects experienced from the medications used during IVF will vary with each person. Some people won’t experience any side effects at all. Other side effects can include tiredness, headaches, hot flushes, nausea, vaginal discharge, bloating and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) which is discussed below.