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Infertility Treatment and the Risk of Pregnancy Complications

Does fertility treatment cause pregnancy complications?

April 8, 2019
Bridget Houlihan

According to a recently published article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, women who undergo fertility treatment-- specifically IVF treatment-- showed a slightly higher risk of developing some kind of pregnancy complication.

The authors of the study are quick to point out that the percentage of women who develop severe complications is small, and that IVF is still a safe and effective way to conceive. Couples undergoing infertility treatment are encouraged to speak with their doctors and be aware of any factors that could make them more at risk.

This article will discuss:

  • Is there a higher risk of pregnancy complications for women in fertility treatment?
  • What does this mean for couples undergoing IVF?

pregnant woman
The study found a correlation between fertility treatment and pregnancy complications.

What’s the risk for women in fertility treatment?

The Canadian study-- lead by Dr. Natalie Dayan of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre-- examined the risk factors involving which women tend to develop severe complications during pregnancy. While these types of complications are low overall, the researchers believed it would be valuable to identify which women may be at a higher risk  as opposed to the rest of the population. The study found that women who underwent IVF treatment-- instead of intrauterine insemination or ovulation induction-- were about 40% more likely to undergo a severe pregnancy complication.

This study-- as well as many before it-- showed that severe complications tend to develop in women who get pregnant over the age of 40 and who are carrying multiple fetuses. The researchers noted that most women who undergo fertility treatment are older and develop multiple fetuses as a result of the treatment. This correlation could explain the higher percentage of pregnancy complications found in women who underwent fertility treatment.

blood pressure
Make sure you talk to your doctor about all the risks of fertility treatment.

What does this mean for couples undergoing IVF?

While the Canadian study did find that women who had undergone IVF treatment were at a greater risk to develop pregnancy complications, they did note that this could be just an inherent risk of infertility treatment in general. The study noted that the number of women who experience a severe complication during pregnancy is quite small, and IVF is still an effective way to become pregnant. Couples should always discuss this with their doctors and understand all the possible risks associated with fertility treatment.

This study did not examine other conditions that might contribute to the women’s risk of developing complications. It did not take into account the health of the mother and whether she had other issues that made her a higher risk candidate-- as these could definitely contribute to her having a greater chance of complications.

Women thinking about starting fertility treatment should talk to their doctor about how they can be in the best possible health before undergoing fertility treatment. It’s always important to be aware of the risks and to listen to your body if there are any signs of trouble.


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