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Risks and complications of IVF treatment

Provides information on the risks and complications of IVF treatment.

What are the possible complications of IVF treatment?

The risks of IVF should be understood before a patient embarks on treatment.

IVF is basically a safe procedure. However, as with any surgical procedure, a few patients will experience side effects and complications many of which can be avoided. The most common complications associated with IVF treatment are the failure of treatment, problems experienced as a consequence of ovarian stimulation, the risk of multiple pregnancy, the risks associated with egg collection and the possibility of ectopic pregnancy.

A recent study from the Netherlands showed that overall mortality in IVF pregnancies was higher than the maternal mortality rate in the general population (42 mothers' deaths per 100,000 IVF pregnancies compared to 6 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies overall).

In addition, to clinical complications that arise from IVF treatments, there are ethical and psychological problems. There are serious errors or near misses including loss of embryos, sperm or egg. In most cases, either the wrong sperm was injected into an egg, or the embryos were destroyed accidentally, or even implanted into another woman therby giving birth to wrong children. Although these errors are extremely rare, they cause unimaginable heartache and anguish to couples longing for a baby. When patients choose to undergo IVF treatment they have the right to know if their clinic has a poor record of incidents, in the same way that clinics are keen to promote their success rates.

How often these problems occur, how they can be prevented, and how dangerous they are, will be discussed in the following pages.

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