The results of a 12-year study have revealed that Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) treatments, including drugs used to stimulate ovaries, pose an incredibly low risk for complications and are very rarely fatal.
Over-stimulated ovaries occur in just 154 out of every 10,000 pregnancy attempts where the mother’s own egg was used for in-vitro fertilization, and other complications number fewer than 10 per 10,000; additionally, only 58 deaths were recorded during the study. Between 2000 and 2011, when the study took place, there were over one million pregnancy attempts involved, so the numbers are reassuring, according the study’s lead author and Emory University assistant professor Dr. Jennifer Kawwass.
The study represents the largest one to date used to calculate the risks for patients who look into IVF and other such treatments in the United States. The results were published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The data included both women using their own eggs and women using donor eggs for their pregnancies.
Kawwass summarized the report in an email to Reuters Health as suggesting that ART treatment, which handles both the egg and the sperm, is “relatively safe and that reported complications remain very rare.”
Kawwass’s study should reassure patients who are planning their IVF timelines, as hesitation can mean missing crucial deadlines for the procedure.
According to the study, the most common complication recorded was ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which is essentially an overdose on ART medications. The condition results in swollen, painful ovaries, and in more severe cases it can cause rapid weight gain, vomiting and shortness of breath.
The study also found that bleeding, infections, adverse reactions to treatments, hospitalization, severe OHSS and maternal death occurred in fewer than 10 out of every 10,000 pregnancy attempts.
The study found that there were a total of 18 deaths within 12 weeks of starting fertility drugs, which suggest that the treatments may have played a role in the fatalities. The other 40 deaths occurred later, which could indicate other pregnancy-related complications in the cause of death, and 18 of those women were carrying twins, triplets or more.
While the study didn’t list exact causes of death for all patients, it did note that complications were much more rare in donors who are typically young and healthy, and that none of the mothers using donor eggs died.