Women who undergo repeated cycles of IVF treatment are at higher risk of complications than women who just take medicines to stimulate egg production, say Finnish researchers. However, the risks of complications are low after each individual IVF cycle, say the researchers, who are based at the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health in Helsinki. The team, who published their findings in the journal Human Reproduction, say they carried out the study because the frequency and importance of complications following IVF treatment are 'poorly known'.
The scientists studied records for 9175 women who received IVF treatment and 10,254 who had ovulation induction treatment during 1996-1998 in Finland. They found that the rate of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) was 1.4 per cent after the first IVF treatment cycle, rising to 2.3 per cent over the whole study period. However, the rates in women who just received ovulation induction treatment were 'very low'.
The team also found that overall, 15 per cent of the IVF-treated women and eight per cent of the women who received ovulation induction treatment needed hospital treatment at least once. The reasons included ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages, as well as OHSS. Infections and bleeding were not common after IVF, and 'even rarer' after ovulation induction, say the researchers. To be included in the study, hospital treatment had to have occurred within 120 dyas of receiving fertility treatment, or, in the case of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, 240 days.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, past studies indicate that eight per cent of natural pregnancies result in complications that require hospital treatment - around half the rate of the IVF-treated group in the study. Martin Foley, chief executive of the pro-life charity Life, told the newspaper that 'these side effects of IVF are life-threatening but are not talked about sufficiently.