Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: A possible complication of IVF?

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Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: A possible complication of IVF?

Question

What are the risks of stimulating the ovaries before in vitro fertilization?

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Answer

To prepare your body for in vitro fertilization (IVF), you'll receive various medications. Some of these medications help your body produce more high-quality eggs or stimulate the development of multiple egg-containing follicles.

This stimulation improves your odds for successful IVF — but it's possible to stimulate the ovaries too much. This condition, known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), affects only a small percentage of women attempting IVF. Younger women and those who have a low body weight or a hormonal disorder known as polycystic ovary syndrome have a higher risk of developing OHSS. Women who conceive also are more likely to develop this complication.

Most cases of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome are mild. Signs and symptoms — including bloating, abdominal discomfort, nausea and diarrhea — often resolve without treatment within two weeks or when your period begins. If you become pregnant, recovery may take longer.

If you have ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, take it easy. Avoid heavy lifting, strenuous exercise and sexual intercourse. Your doctor may recommend drinking clear fluids or electrolyte drinks, such as Gatorade. If needed, ask your doctor about pain relievers.

Rarely, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome causes fluid to accumulate in the abdominal and chest cavities. Signs and symptoms of extensive fluid accumulation may include abdominal swelling and shortness of breath. This fluid accumulation can deplete blood volume and lower blood pressure. Severe cases may require emergency treatment and hospitalization to prevent life-threatening complications.

Some studies suggest that women who have ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome are more likely to develop gestational diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy. But more research is needed to evaluate this possible relationship.

Last Updated: 07/18/2006
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