What are the Side Effects of IVF?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The side effects of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment vary, depending on the treatment plan established by a doctor. Generally, women can expect some discomfort, particularly abdominal cramping and nausea, while taking medications to prepare for harvesting and transfer. The most serious potential risk is a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which the ovaries become enlarged and there is a possibility that one may rupture. When preparing for an IVF cycle, patients should talk to their doctors about the side effects they can expect with a given treatment.

Headaches are a potential side effect of IVF.
Headaches are a potential side effect of IVF.

If the treatment requires injectable medications, side effects of IVF commonly include soreness, pain, and swelling at the injection site. Patients usually find it helpful to rotate injection sites, if they are directed to do so by their doctors, and practicing injection technique on an inanimate object like an orange can be helpful as well. Patients can also experience side effects of IVF like cramping, headache, fatigue, hot flashes, and mood swings.

Cramping is one possible side effect of IVF.
Cramping is one possible side effect of IVF.

There is also an emotional component to IVF. People undergoing fertility treatment may be worried, stressed, excited, or all three. These can create side effects like nervousness, emotional anxiety, and depression. Working with a counselor can help patients process the emotions associated with fertility treatment and identify psychological disturbances before they become a problem.

During IVF, sperm and embryo are joined in a laboratory setting.
During IVF, sperm and embryo are joined in a laboratory setting.

If a patient develops ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, abdominal bloating and tenderness will develop. Severe cramps can be experienced, and patients can develop nausea, weight gain, pelvic pain, and reduced urinary output. In addition, patients may develop clotting disorders and can experience symptoms like soreness in the legs due to clotting problems. If an ovary ruptures, sharp pain can be experienced. Patients are monitored closely through treatment for any signs of this serious complication so it can be treated as soon as possible.

Once patients are done with the stimulation section of their IVF treatment, they are ready for retrieval, where eggs are collected using a needle. The side effects of IVF at this stage include soreness around the spot where the needle is inserted, along with cramping. If the fertilization is successful and the eggs are implanted, patients are checked to see if they are pregnant, and evaluated for the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy, one of the potential side effects of IVF. Once the pregnancy is established, patients can look forward to all the symptoms of a normal pregnancy, including everything from swelling ankles to nausea.

The side effects of in vitro fertilization (IVF) vary depending on her treatment regimen.
The side effects of in vitro fertilization (IVF) vary depending on her treatment regimen.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

ddljohn

The side effects I experienced from IVF drugs were not as bad as I expected. I had some bloating and night time sweating from the hormones, but they were bearable.

I think the biggest issue for me was injecting myself with the drugs. I was very anxious about it and I even bruised my abdomen during my first injection. But I got used to it after the third time.

burcinc

@donasmrs-- The IVF process can cause some cramping and spotting. These side effects are usually due to hormones that you received before the transfer. These can also be implantation symptoms, but you will know for sure when you have a blood test to check for pregnancy at two weeks. If you do get pregnant, you can also expect some mild cramping and spotting in the early stages of pregnancy.

I had mild cramping and spotting until I was about six weeks pregnant after my IVF. Some cramping and spotting is normal with all pregnancies but I think these symptoms are even more common if the pregnancy is through IVF.

If the cramps become severe and/or if the spotting turns into bleeding, you need to get to the ER right away. These are not normal side effects and point to a complication.

donasmrs

I had an IVF transfer two days ago. I've been experiencing a lot of cramping and also spotting since the transfer. Are these normal side effects of IVF treatment?

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