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University of Colorado Denver


The medications and procedures required for in vitro fertilization (IVF) are rarely associated with complications. However, as with all medical treatments, there are potential problems which may occur.


  1. Although mild bruising and soreness are possible with any injectable medications such as those used for IVF, allergic reactions are very rare.
  2. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome can occur whenever women use ovarian stimulation medications, especially injectable gonadotropins, such as Follistim®, Gonal-F®, Pergonal®, Metrodin®, Bravelle®, or Repronex®. This complication occurs in less than 1% of women who have an egg (oocyte) retrieval with IVF. When severe, ovarian hyperstimulation can lead to dehydration, large amounts of fluid accumulation in the abdominal and lung cavities, blood clotting disorders, and kidney damage. Occasionally, IVF cycles are cancelled to prevent hyperstimulation.
  3. Controversial studies link fertility drugs to the development of ovarian cancer, although studies are contradictory. Some researchers have reported an increase in borderline ovarian cancer in women who use injectable gonadotropins. Until further research is available, careful use of fertility drugs is reasonable, but it is also important to note that achieving pregnancy reduces the lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer.


  1. Ultrasound-guided, transvaginal oocyte retrieval is a procedure whereby a long, thin needle is passed through the vagina into the ovary. Although women are under sedation or local anesthesia, this procedure can cause mild to moderate discomfort. Injuries during this procedure are extremely rare. Structures near the ovaries, such as the bladder, bowel, or blood vessels could possibly be injured and require further surgery. Limited bleeding from the ovary may occur, but the need for transfusion is extremely rare. Infections following transvaginal egg retrieval are also possible, but rare.
  2. Laparoscopic oocyte retrieval can be complicated by any of the surgical risks associated with laparoscopy. The risk of major injury to the bladder, bowel, uterus, blood vessels, or other pelvic structures occurs in approximately 1 in 500-1,000 surgeries. If injury occurs further surgery may be required. Infection following laparoscopy rarely occurs. Anesthesia complications are rare in healthy women.


The transfer of embryos may cause mild irritation to the cervix or uterus.


  1. There is NO increased risk of birth defects in children conceived through IVF. The rate of pregnancy loss or miscarriage (about 20%) is similar to that of the general population and is related to the age of the female partner. (The older the patient and higher the Day 3 FSH value is, the higher the risk of miscarriage.) The risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy is increased to about 5% (1 in 20 compared to about 1 in 80 in the general population).
  2. The risk of multiple gestation-twins, triplets, and higher order multiple pregnancies-is much more common in women who undergo IVF. The rate of twins with IVF is approximately 25% and the rate of triplets or more is approximately 5%. Multiple pregnancies are complicated by an increased risk of premature labor, premature delivery, maternal hemorrhage, cesarean delivery, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes.

University of Colorado Denver
Advanced Reproductive Medicine

Anschutz Medical Campus Office
Location: 1635 Aurora Court, Aurora, CO 80045
Mailing: PO Box 6510, Mail Stop F701, Aurora, CO 80045
Tel: 720.848.1690
Toll-free: 1.888.899.7441
Fax: 720.848.1678
Colorado Springs Office
4125 Briargate Parkway, Suite 350
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Tel: 719.314.3333
Fax: 719.314.3344

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