IVF treatment

Women warned of health risks of fertility drug

Following an increase in the number of complications arising out of its use, women undergoing fertility treatment are being urged to look out for symptoms of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (“OHSS”) which, amongst other effects, can lead to death if left untreated.

A recent report has revealed that 60 women were admitted to hospital in 2015 after developing OHSS, a 40% increase on 2014. OHSS can occur in women undergoing fertility treatment, when their ovaries are overstimulated by a drug designed to increase the amount of eggs released, which can increase the chances of successful IVF fertilisation. If the ovaries are over stimulated, they release chemicals into the bloodstream that can cause serious side effects such as heart attacks and lung damage. Professor Adam Balen, Chairman of the British Fertility Society has warned

OHSS is a potentially serious complication of fertility treatment, particularly IVF. Most women will recover with pain relief; however, for severe cases, women may need to be admitted to hospital and given treatment to reduce their risk of developing blood clots, which is a serious complication of the condition”.

Blood tests can be carried out to assess how responsive their ovaries will be to the stimulant, before it is injected. Those with more responsive ovaries should receive smaller doses to avoid the risk of OHSS. In the past the number of patients reported to have OHSS has dropped, but doctors are concerned that the recent spike in numbers could be due to doctors wanting to harvest as many eggs as possible, in order to increase the chance of successful fertilisation for their patients. Nick Macklon, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton, has said

the overall numbers remain very low compared with the past, but I think there is a message in this data, to remain vigilant about preventing OHHS by avoiding high dose stimulation where possible”.

Any women undergoing IVF and stimulation treatment may wish to consider speaking to their doctor about the risks and symptoms of OHSS, and whether or not they are receiving an appropriate prescription of stimulation to meet their aims.

Chris Thorne, Partner at Clarke Willmott, is a leading lawyer in fertility related claims, having advised claimants in some of the most well known cases in England and Wales. If you or anyone you know has concerns about IVF or other fertility treatment that you have undergone, contact Chris on 0345 209 1461 or by email at Chris.Thorne@clarkewillmott.com.