Risks of IVF

Risks of IVF at a glance

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) carries the obvious benefit of a potential successful pregnancy and birth to achieve what seemed impossible under normal circumstances; however, as with most medical procedures, there are some potential risks.
  • The risks of IVF depend on each specific step of the IVF procedure.
  • Serious complications from the required IVF medications and procedures are uncommon, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.


During IVF procedures, fertility drugs called ovulation induction medications are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Possible side effects of these medications include:

  • Bruising and soreness at injection sites
  • Allergic reaction
  • Gastrointestinal pain, headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, where the ovaries become swollen and painful. Moderate hyperstimulation is common, but extreme hyperstimulation is rare and involves these potential side affects: nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, or a feeling of being bloated. More severe symptoms, which occur in about 2 percent of cases, include the following:
  • Severe abdominal pain from accumulating fluid
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased urinary frequency
  • Shortness of breath
  • Ten pound weight gain within three to five days

Egg retrieval

Laparoscopic surgery and other procedures used during egg retrieval carry the typical risks related to anesthesia. Additionally, there is a slight risk of infection, internal bleeding, and damage to the bladder, bowel, or a blood vessel. Less than one patient in 1,000 will require surgery to repair damage caused during the egg retrieval process.

Embryo transfer

A catheter system is inserted into the uterus for embryo transfer, which may cause cramping, bleeding, or spotting after the procedure. Uncommonly, an infection may develop, but can be treated with antibiotics and rarely progresses to a severe infection.

Increased risk of multiples

As with all assisted reproductive procedures, the chance of a multiples pregnancy is increased with IVF. Risks and concerns related to multiples include increased risk of premature delivery, lifelong medical and developmental problems for the baby, as well as pregnancy and labor complications for the mother. Carrying twins presents a much higher risk for mothers and babies than a single pregnancy, and triplets or higher have an even greater increased risk for long-term health problems or premature births.

Psychological stress

IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies involve significant physical, financial, and emotional commitment on the part of the patient, their partners, and sometimes even friends and family. Psychological stress and emotional problems are a part of the process. However, we offer access to experienced counselors to help manage the emotional toll and stress that occurs, and other stress-management techniques can also be useful, such as massage, acupuncture, music, yoga and meditation.

Birth defects

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, there seems to be no increased risk of birth defects in children conceived through IVF compared with those conceived naturally.


According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, there is no difference in the rate of pregnancy loss or miscarriage between women using IVF compared with women conceiving naturally.

Ovarian cancer

Despite older reports suggesting a link between ovarian cancer and fertility drugs, extensive studies by the CDC fail to show any evidence of ovarian cancer risk.