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What Is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)?

What Are the Risks With ART Procedures?

Although ART procedures can help alleviate the burdens of infertility on couples, they can also present some risks. Some of these risks include high rates of multiple babies, preterm delivery, and low birth weights.
 
One of the main risks associated with an ART procedure is that of twins or multiples -- the more embryos that are transferred, the greater the risk. Multiple pregnancies can carry potentially significant risks, such as:
   
In an effort to reduce the number of higher-order multiple pregnancies, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has issued some guidelines for the number of embryos that should be transferred.
 
Your healthcare provider should transfer the minimum number of embryos that will still provide a high chance of getting pregnant with a low risk of multiples. If you do become pregnant with more than one baby, you may want to consider having a consultation with a healthcare provider who is experienced in high-risk pregnancies. He or she can give you information and guidance about complications that may occur during your pregnancy. Some women may also want to consider reducing the number of embryos they are carrying.
 
In general, serious complications from fertility medications and techniques required for ART procedures are rare. However, as with any medical treatment, there are some possible risks.
 
With the fertility medications, some of the possible risks include:
 
  • Bruising or soreness at the injection site
     
  • Allergic reactions
     
  • Side effects, such as headaches, mood changes, and gastrointestinal distress
     
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which can occur when the ovaries produce many follicles and fluid may leak from the blood vessels into the abdominal cavity and lungs.
 
Possible risks of the egg-retrieval process may include:
 
  • Mild-to-moderate discomfort
  • Potential injury to organs near the ovaries, such as the bladder, bowel, or blood vessels
  • Pelvic infections.
 
During an embryo transfer, some women may experience mild cramping when the catheter is inserted through the cervix. It's rare for women to develop an infection, although if one occurs, it can be treated with antibiotics.
 
Although there is a risk for miscarriage with IVF, the rates are similar to those following a natural conception. The risk for miscarriage increases with the mother's age, regardless of the method of conception. The miscarriage rate can be as low as 15 percent for women in their 20s and up to 50 percent for women in their 40s.
 
There is also a 2 percent to 4 percent risk of an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. If this occurs, you will need to take medication or have surgery to remove it. Make sure to seek immediate medical attention if you are pregnant and you experience any signs of an ectopic pregnancy, such as:
   
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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