More and more couples are considering IVF treatment for infertility issues. But with the hope of overcoming infertility comes some risks. There is the devastating reality of IVF failure, among other complications, throughout the process.
A typical cycle lasts about two to three weeks, and often patients must go through more than one cycle. The first step focuses on ovulation induction using medication. There are different medications to help with specific issues with ovulation.
Once the medication cycle is complete, the second step is egg retrieval. During this step, multiple eggs are retrieved via either transvaginal ultrasound aspiration (most common) or an abdominal ultrasound (less common). The eggs are placed in a nutritive liquid and incubated.
The third step is semen retrieval. If one partner is supplying the semen, the retrieval is done the day of the egg retrieval procedure. The retrieval can be done naturally or with a needle if necessary. Step four is fertilizing the mature eggs with the viable sperm. The two most common methods are conventional insemination and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
The fifth step is embryo transfer, which takes place around two to five days after the egg retrieval step. The doctor will use a catheter and syringe to place embryos on the uterus. You will know if this final placement is successful about six to ten days after the procedure.
Avoiding strenuous activity can help you avoid discomfort, but it is okay to resume normal daily activities when waiting for results. In a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a blood draw to determine if you are pregnant or not.
Many factors influence the success of IVF so if you are not pregnant, there could be many reasons. Your doctor will work with you to determine the next best steps.
The fact that the intervention’s outcomes are uncertain makes the process an emotional strain as much as a physical one. Because the process is multi-staged, the emotional impact can be more intense.
The couple must wait to see if the current phase has been successful before moving on to the next. Some stages have to be repeated, making the wait even longer.
Couples who choose IVF are already dealing with the challenges of infertility. These additional strains may lead to stress and depression.
IVF involves significant investments in money, time, and energy. The IVF failure may intensify the effects of these other stressors. Work with a psychologist to reduce the effects of mental health factors.
IVF specialists use fertility drugs called gonadotropins. They inject these drugs to encourage the ovaries to develop several egg-bearing follicles. These fertility medications could result in the following adverse effects:
- Bruising and soreness at the injection site
- Itchiness or redness at the injection site
- Breast tenderness
- Vomiting and nausea
- Mood swings
- Extreme tiredness
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)
Most OHSS symptoms are mild, including bloating, nausea, and ovarian discomfort. They may disappear on their own after the egg collection process. Severe OHSS can result in the following:
- Fluid buildup in the stomach and lungs
- Breathing difficulties
- Abnormal ovary enlargement
- Severe abdominal pain
OHSS may result in kidney failure and blood clots in about 1% of the people who undergo egg retrieval for IVF. In the past, OHSS was much more common, but now it rarely occurs. The people who are most likely to suffer from OHSS are those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
The egg retrieval process involves the insertion of a thin needle into a patient’s follicles. An IVF specialist uses a vaginal ultrasound as a guide. This procedure could result in the following risks:
Pelvic and Abdominal Pain
The pain may range from mild to moderate, disappearing in less than two days. Over-the-counter pain relief medications can manage this symptom.
Organs near the ovary, such as the bowel, bladder, and blood vessels, risk injury during the egg retrieval process. It is uncommon to have severe organ injury, which requires blood transfusion or emergency surgery.
Women with a history of endometriosis and pelvic infections are at a higher risk of infections from IVF. Antibiotic medicine given to patients before egg retrieval helps to reduce pelvic infections. Doctors use intravenous antibiotics to treat severe cases of infection. Rarely will surgery be necessary to remove the uterus, tubes, and ovaries.
Some women react to the anesthesia the doctors use during the procedure.
Light bleeding may occur after the egg retrieval process.
IVF specialists use a catheter to place the embryos into the womb. During this process, a woman may experience the following:
- Mild cramping during the insertion of the catheter
- Light bleeding after the transfer
- Infections treated using antibiotics
A small percentage of patients can experience ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, often in a fallopian tube instead. Some doctors will do a practice embryo transfer to increase the chances of a successful placement.
Multiple pregnancies are common with IVF. Couples may transfer at least two embryos to increase their chances of success. You can avoid the risk of multiple pregnancies by transferring one embryo at a time. Multiple pregnancies can have the following risks:
- Maternal hemorrhage
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Cesarean section delivery
- Preterm labor
Every pregnancy carries some level of risk. Following IVF, this risk has a higher percentage. If a dedicated fertility specialist conducts the procedure, these risks are manageable.
IVF babies can develop just like other babies, but they are more likely to have the following issues:
- Low birth weight in cases of multiple babies
- Fetal death of one of the multiple babies
- Congenital disabilities, although rare
- Male infertility where ICSI is used
- Intrauterine growth restriction, IGR, for multiple babies
- Premature birth
Premature babies are at higher risk for health complications such as:
- Cerebral palsy
- Behavior problems
- Learning disabilities
- Language delay
- Lung development problems
- Intestinal infections
IVF Failure: Testing For BCL6
Dealing with the side effects of IVF treatments is hard, but IVF failure can make it harder. BCL6 levels are higher in endometriosis cell overgrowth. By testing for BCL6, you can find out the cause of failed IVF and get treatment to reduce the IVF failure risk.
And, that’s all for today. If you find this article helpful, make sure to share it with your friends and family. Take care; celebrate life.