Common Complaints And Risks Of Fertility Medications

Women who elect treatment for infertility should be aware of the associated risks of fertility medications. While minimal, the dangers of fertility drugs include the risk of ovary problems and high order births.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) is a condition in which the ovaries may become swollen, causing a woman pain.

About 25 percent of women who undergo fertility hormone treatments experience mild OHSS that usually fades within a week, while a small percentage of women may experience more acute symptoms. These may include abdominal pain, rapid weight gain, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting (The Mayo Clinic, 2011).

Women who are successful in conceiving may experience mild OHSS for an extended period of time, usually several weeks.

About 1 to 2 percent of women may develop a severe form of OHSS that could involve potentially life-threatening complications, which may include acute respiratory distress syndrome, blood clots, electrolyte imbalances, fluid collection in the abdomen or chest cavities, kidney failure, ovarian cyst ruptures and twisted ovaries.

While OHSS is rarely fatal for expectant mothers, severe cases can sometimes lead to a loss of the pregnancy.

Does Treating Infertility Cause Ovarian Cancer?
For many years, medical professionals considered a possible link between the instance of ovarian cancer in women who used fertility drugs. A study published by the British Medical Journal in 2009 has discovered no definite link between ovarian cancer and fertility drugs, but was not able to rule out the connection entirely.

Women who used the fertility drug clomiphene (brand name Clomid) may experience up to a 67 percent risk of developing serous ovarian cancer tumors (New York Times, 2009). Clomiphene is a popular oral fertility treatment that is successful in aiding conception about half of the time.

Superovulation and Multiple Births
The most common risk of most fertility treatments is that they will cause multiple eggs to be released from the ovarian follicles. This frequently leads to multiple births, such as twins, triplets or other high-order births.

Multiple births carry the risk of premature labor and low birth weights, which may hinder fetal development. Other risks associated with multiple births include preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and detached placentas.

The risks of the drugs can vary depending on the types of fertility medications administered. For example, while clomiphene carries the risk of superovulation and multiple births, the risk is not as high as it is with intensive hormone treatments, such as gonadotropin hormone treatments.