What are potential physical and emotional effects of IVF?

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has helped countless Minnesotans begin or grow their families, including couples with fertility issues, same-sex partners, and individuals. The methods used in ART range from couples using their own sperm and eggs for intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (fertilization of an egg outside the womb) (IVF) and gestation by the intended mother, to sperm, egg, or embryo donation to create embryos to be gestated by the intended mother, to the use of a gestational carrier to gestate the intended parents’ embryos. Some of these methods involve third parties, and some do not.

Between 1987 and 2015, Penn Medicine estimates more than 1 million babies were born across the U.S. using some form of ART, of which IVF is the most common technique. Despite the common use of IVF, many aspiring parents considering the use of the procedure are concerned with the potential side effects.

IVF stages and potential physical impacts

IVF is the primary infertility treatment for individuals or couples who cannot become pregnant through natural intercourse. The Cleveland Clinic says the process takes four to six weeks on average. Here are three stages where physical effects are most likely to occur:

  • Ovulation induction: Fertility doctors will prescribe several medications, such as estrogen and birth control pills, and they will start injecting hormones to stimulate egg production. The most common side effects include nausea, injection site sensitivity, abdominal and breast tenderness, dizziness and mood swings.
  • Egg retrieval: This step is typically done roughly 36 hours after the final injection and before ovulation. You will be sedated during this process to avoid discomfort. You might experience mild pain once it’s complete, including cramps that feel like menstrual cramps and vaginal soreness.
  • Embryo transfer: After the eggs are retrieved and fertilized in a lab, the embryo is transferred to the uterus. The Mayo Clinic says minor cramping may be present, but the process is usually painless and feels more like a pap smear. Afterward, you may have spotting, bloating and breast tenderness.

Serious complications resulting from IVF medications and procedures are rare, but, as with any medical procedure, risks and side effects are possible. If you experience severe symptoms, it is crucial to consult a doctor immediately.

Don’t forget about your mental well-being

Addressing any stress or anxiety associated with IVF and fertility issues is equally essential. Many couples and individuals feel those pressures long before they consider ART. The support of a mental health professional experienced in ART is extremely beneficial to successfully process and manage any such issues.

And then there are the legal aspects

In addition to the physical and psychological aspects of ART, there are often murky legal aspects of ART regarding the legal parentage of the resulting children when third parties are involved in egg, sperm, or embryo donation or surrogacy. Most states, including Minnesota, do not have specific laws governing the legal parentage of the resulting children in all types of ART. Therefore, working with a knowledgeable assisted reproduction lawyer is also an extremely beneficial, and often necessary, part of the ART process. The advice and support of an experienced attorney can put any residual uncertainties or fears about legal parentage to rest. It’s advisable to consult a lawyer who has a great deal of experience in successfully guiding intended parents and surrogates through all types of the ART process.