During a woman’s natural menstrual cycle, the body releases only one egg per cycle; If a woman is having trouble getting pregnant, she may decide to undergo in-vitro fertilization. During IVF, your doctor will provide you with injectable medication that will stimulate the follicles to release several eggs at once for retrieval, fertilization, and implantation into the uterus; however, in some rare instances, women who are undergoing IVF may develop a painful condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
What is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome?
Thanks to advanced and ever-changing medical technology and fertility practices it’s now fairly uncommon to have OHSS occur in women who undergo IVF. OHSS causes the ovaries to swell and leak, sometimes causing significant abdominal pain. This is in response to taking these injectable medications, which stimulate several follicles to develop eggs. This results in higher levels of estradiol, which can cause the ovaries to leak fluid into the stomach. Women with OHSS may experience:
- Abdominal swelling
In more severe OHSS cases, women may also experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
It’s important to discuss the chances of developing OHSS during IVF with a qualified OBGYN who can provide you with answers you need to decide whether this type of fertility treatment is truly right for you.
How is OHSS treated?
If your OBGYN believes that your symptoms are indicative of OHSS, a simple ultrasound can allow our team to be able to examine the ovaries to look for leaks or fluid in the abdomen. Sometimes blood testing is also performed. If OHSS is mild than rest, limited activity, and staying hydrated are all that’s needed. If there is significant fluid in the abdomen, the doctor may need to drain the fluid (particularly if it’s causing serious pain). Only in serious cases does OHSS require hospitalization.
If you are interested in learning more about IVF, or if you are having trouble conceiving, you may want to first talk with your OBGYN about your options and whether or not you should pursue fertility treatments. Your OBGYN will be able to answer all of your questions regarding family planning and getting pregnant.