Answer from: Raúl Olivares, MD
Current evidence suggests that there are no long term side effects after IVF. IVF itself is a process that takes one month. During this month, there are only two weeks in which the patient is going to be exposed to strong stimulation, which is going to be very short.
For many years, it was thought that the use of the stimulations could increase the risk of problems like ovarian cancer, for example, but nowadays, after proper studies have been done, it has been confirmed that the problem of these ovarian cancers is related to the fact that the patients are infertile. When these studies were done, there was one branch of patients that had undergone IVF and patients who had their babies naturally. It was seen that there was a higher risk of ovarian cancer in the infertile group. When inside this group, they created two branches, those that underwent the stimulation but had a baby and those that have undergone the stimulation but weren’t successful – they confirmed that the group who got pregnant, the risk was exactly the same as in patients who got pregnant naturally.
Therefore, the main difference between the two groups was not the fact that the patients had been exposed to gonadotropins or stimulations or things like that. The main difference was whether the patients who underwent IVF had a baby or not. The main factor for these long-time side effects is related to infertility, not the IVF itself.
Answer from: Harry Karpouzis, MD, MRCOG, DIUE
Generally, IVF is a very straight forward water and procedure without any risks to the woman. There have been many studies that have tried to find any long term effects of IVF on the health of the woman. First, the medication someone takes to stimulate the ovaries can cause some side effects like abdominal bloatedness, fluid detention, rarely headaches. By any means, the hormones that increase the ovarian stimulation like estrogen can cause in IVF or during pregnancy an increase in the thickness of blood, which again can increase blood clots, but no study showed that this can cause a long-term effect.
Some studies compared IVF with an increased risk of stroke later in life or cardiovascular problems, but they have not clarified if that was due to pre-existing problems like obesity or diabetes or the procedure itself. Regarding cancer and IVF, some initial studies have shown some small increase in ovarian and breast cancer, but all the studies that came after that have not shown any link between ovarian and breast cancer.
A Swedish study done a few years ago even showed the reduced risk of those health issues in women who had IVF before. Of course, we need to take very good care of women, especially, those who are more than 37 years old and are going through the IVF process because there can be an increased risk of breast cancer if there is pre-existing cancer, which was not identified or strong family history. This is why in a woman over 37 years old, it is ideal to ask for mammography, and we need to consider family history as well.
Now, are there any risks coming from IVF? There can be very rarely hyperstimulation syndrome, which can be quite dangerous, but this is something that can be dealt with. Especially with a freeze all techniques, special protocols, antagonist, we usually put patients with PCOS during IVF protocol and with careful management of the IVF cycle so that we can have zero chance of hyperstimulation. Nowadays, if we have hyperstimulation in IVF, it’s something that shouldn’t be done because it can be prevented by the right doses and the right protocols, and freeze all technique that can be used without compromising the chances of IVF.
Finally, at the time of egg collection, it is a minor procedure, like all minor procedures, there is a low risk of causing an injury to the bowel or the vessels, but an experienced reproductive medicine specialist will have a low risk of causing this sort of injuries. Also, a lot of care needs to be provided to an obese woman or woman with severe rectovaginal endometriosis where the egg collection has to be done very carefully.
What kind of long therm side effects we can face after IVF cycle?
The first IVF baby was born over 40 years ago. In vitro fertilization has nowadays become a standard procedure for all couples struggling with infertility. What do we know so far regarding the effect of IVF? Can IVF cause any health problems? How long does it take for the ovaries to recover after IVF? Are there any negative effects of IVF?