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Risks and Complications of Fertility Treatments
Women who undergo fertility treatments to conceive a baby are at an increased risk of complications right from conceiving, pregnancy and postpartum. These complications or risks can either result from pregnancy or fertility treatments. The risks related to pregnancy involve multiple gestation, ectopic pregnancy, premature delivery, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.
In the United States, around 10% of women aged 16-45 years, are estimated to have trouble conceiving or staying pregnant. The worldwide estimation of fertility problems among couples amounts to around 8-12% and the ratio is 50-50 for both the gender. With approximately a million babies born using assisted reproductive technology in the United States between 1987 and 2015, as mentioned in the report by the U.S. Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). Assisted reproductive technologies include treatments like IVF or the use of a sperm donor, egg donor, or adopted embryo. This brings us to a pressing issue of women’s physical and psychological health, post fertility treatments.
IVF is one of the common fertility treatments due to its high success rate. The procedure of the treatment involves monitoring of the ovulatory process and stimulated before the eggs are extracted from the ovaries and fertilized in the laboratory with the help of sperm. The fertilized eggs then undergo embryo culture for the next six days and are transferred into the woman’s uterus leading to a positive pregnancy.
According to What To Expect,” You are required to take hormone shots before your eggs can be harvested for fertilization, which can cause unpleasant side effects. The procedure itself is invasive and implanting more than one fertilized egg also makes you more likely to have twins or multiples, which ups the odds for possible complications. Plus, it can be expensive if not covered by insurance.”
The various types of complications prevalent among women who underwent infertility treatments include:
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)
Fertility drugs that are injected to induce egg development lead to swollen and painful ovaries. This causes OHSS and the symptoms for the same include mild and abdominal pain, nausea and bloating for about a week and can continue into your pregnancy.
Multiple pregnancies are the most common complication arising out of infertility treatments, resulting in multiple egg fertilization at the same time. With multiple fetuses, the risk of premature labor and delivery is high. Premature babies then suffer from health and developmental issues in while growing up.
Low Birth Weight and Premature Delivery
As mentioned earlier, the risk of conceiving multiple fetuses can lead to low birth weight of the babies. And the chances of premature delivery are also high in such pregnancies. Also, there is a risk of bleeding and infection caused due to invasive procedures with assisted reproductive technology.
"We found that the women who received infertility treatment, especially in vitro fertilization, were about 40% more likely to experience a severe pregnancy complication compared with women who gave birth without any treatment," as mentioned by lead author Dr. Natalie Dayan, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. "However, the absolute number of women who develop these complications remains quite small, meaning that for most women who cannot conceive naturally, this treatment is a very safe and effective method of becoming pregnant and conceiving a child."
Postpartum depression, is the onset of a major depressive episode with onset during pregnancy or within 4 weeks of delivery, according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V)
Women undergoing infertility treatment experience anxiety and depression due to infertility itself and the stress due to the treatment on them. Women who are looking to get pregnant through artificial means are more stressed than the general population. The cases of depression have been higher especially in IVF patients as the psychological stress of anticipation. However, the women undergoing IVF treatments do not share their psychological health with a fear of the treatment being canceled due to their mental conditions.
The second biggest reason for psychological issues or stress is the transition to motherhood. The levels of anxiety and stress will as like any woman who had a baby naturally. Women who have had cases of preexisting depression are also at higher risk of postpartum depression. However, women who get pregnant through fertility treatments are at even higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression due to the stress and risk attached to the treatment.
Hence factors like having an understanding partner and family support help the woman to get through this phase healthily. Women undergoing such a procedure should join support groups and must not shy away from asking for any help from professionals or your close ones. Do thorough research and ask for a couple of opinions before narrowing down on the right kind of fertility treatment for you. Keep your finances and necessary insurance in place to help you go through with the procedure with less stress.
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