Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

Possible Side Effects of Fertility Drugs

The use of fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs is a common and effective way to address infertility in women. During an IVF cycle, gonadotropins are often administered as a means of stimulating egg production in the ovaries. However, there is a potential side effect with the use of these drugs. About ten percent of women going through IVF treatment will experience a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Although is it possible for this condition to appear with the use of Clomid and other orally administered fertility drugs, it is very rare.

The key to preventing a severe case of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is to be familiar with the symptoms of the condition. Typically, OHS is mild although it can, if left untreated, become life threatening. Careful monitoring of the treatment cycle by the doctor and catching the symptoms of OHS early can greatly lower the risk of any serious complications.

What Happens When OHS Occurs

While it is normal for the ovaries to enlarge during fertility drug treatment, when ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome occurs, the ovaries become dangerously enlarged with fluid. The fluid can potentially leak into the body cavity, the belly, and chest areas, and can lead to complications. The follicles themselves do not generate the fluid. Rather, most of the fluid comes from blood vessels that become leaky due to substances released from the ovary.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome can only happen once ovulation has occurred. If a woman is at risk for OHS, the doctor may cancel the treatment cycle or use medication to delay ovulation by a few days. The use of a GnRH antagonist, which prevents the body's luteinizing hormone surge, may prevent or delay ovulation. This process is sometimes referred to as "coasting." The delay of ovulation for a few days can lower the risk of a severe case of OHS without seriously decreasing the chances of a successful pregnancy.

When Do The Symptoms Arise?

Symptoms of OHS may occur a few days after ovulation or IVF egg retrieval, or they may not occur for a week or more after ovulation. Mild symptoms include bloating, mild abdominal pain or discomfort, some weight gain, mild nausea and diarrhea. More severe symptoms may include a rapid weight gain of more than ten pounds in three to five days, severe bloating, nausea, and abdominal pain, difficulty urinating, dizziness, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat. Whether the symptoms are mild or severe, the doctor should be contacted immediately in order to either monitor or treat the condition.

Keeping A Mild Case Of OHS In Check

If a mild case of OHS develops, there are some things that can be done at home to keep the symptoms in check. Over-the-counter painkillers, such as Tylenol, can help relieve discomfort. Maintaining some light activity without overexertion is better than total bed rest, which can increase the risk of complications. Fluid retention can be addressed by putting the feet up. Sexual activity may be uncomfortable and can increase the risk of rupture or leakage of ovarian cysts, so it is best to refrain until the condition is under control. Alcohol, coffee, caffeinated drinks and sodas are unhealthy at the best of times, but even more so during a bout with OHS.

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