What Are the Disadvantages of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?

By (gynecologist), (embryologist) and (invitra staff).
Last Update: 05/09/2023

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a complex fertility treatment that in recent years has allowed the birth of thousands of children in women or couples with fertility problems.

However, women who undergo IVF may be at a higher risk for some complications during the process or after pregnancy is achieved.

Specifically, the main problems associated with IVF are due to hormonal ovarian stimulation and intrauterine embryo transfer. However, there are also other risks associated with this fertility treatment.

Risks associated with ovarian stimulation

Controlled ovarian stimulation consists of the administration of hormonal drugs to provoke multiple follicular developments in the woman's ovaries.

If the normal menstrual cycle is to develop a follicle that gives rise to a mature egg, hormonal medication is intended to obtain several eggs that can be fertilized in order to increase the likelihood of pregnancy.

However, both the administration of hormones and the procedure to remove mature eggs (follicular puncture) have certain risks that a woman should be aware of before starting IVF:

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome
is a very high response of the ovaries to hormone medication. Many follicles develop, the ovaries overgrow and, after ovulation, the fluid contained in the follicles can pass into the abdominal cavity. Symptoms of this are pain and bloating, nausea, diarrhea, weight gain, etc. In severe cases, ascites, tachycardia, and shortness of breath may occur.
Risks of egg retrieval
Ovarian Puncture is a simple surgical procedure performed under sedation. The possible side effects of anesthesia are minor discomfort, dizziness or a drop in blood pressure, but nothing more serious. On the other hand, a complication that can arise during the puncture is damage to the pelvic organs, which can cause bleeding or infection.

If you need more information about all these procedures that take place during IVF, you can read the following article: How is the IVF process step by step?

If you need to undergo IVF to become a mother, we recommend that you generate your Fertility Report now. In 3 simple steps, it will show you a list of clinics that fit your preferences and meet our strict quality criteria. Moreover, you will receive a report via email with useful tips to visit a fertility clinic for the first time.

Embryo transfer and pregnancy

Once the eggs have been fertilized in the laboratory, it is time to transfer the embryos so that they can implant in the mother's uterus and give rise to a pregnancy.

In most countries, however, specialists are allowed to only transfer a maximum of three embryos. The risk of having a multiple pregnancy is still high.

This is what fertility doctor Miguel Dolz confirms:

By law the maximum limit is 3 embryos, generally, we transfer 2, in certain circumstances 3 and we try more and more to transfer only one embryo.

Below, we will discuss this and other pregnancy-related drawbacks of IVF:

Multiple pregnancy
since their introduction, assisted reproduction technologies have increased the rate of twin and even triple pregnancies. This fact, added to the age of most IVF patients, means that the risks of pregnancy are higher for both the mother and the babies. IVF-related risk are, for example, premature birth, c-section, fetal death, preeclampsia, etc.
Pregnancy loss in the first few weeks is something that occurs in about 20% of cases. What happens with IVF is that many more biochemical miscarriages are detected than when they occur in a natural pregnancy, as they can be simply mistaken for menstruation.
Ectopic pregnancy
ectopic or extra-uterine pregnancy means when the embryo implants outside the uterus, such as in the fallopian tubes, for example. The risk of this happening after IVF is 2-5%, while in a natural pregnancy it is only 1%. This is due to the embryo transfer into the uterus and the likelihood of damage to the fallopian tubes.

If you want to learn more about the types of miscarriages that can happen in early pregnancy, we recommend you continue reading here: Types of miscarriage.

Other possible risks of IVF

Although the most common risks of IVF are usually those mentioned above, any fertility treatment also involves a great deal of stress.

In the case of IVF, this reproductive option can cause emotional and physical stress, but also financial stress. The probability of pregnancy in the first IVF attempt is not assured and sometimes it is necessary to repeat several IVF cycles until pregnancy is achieved. This involves a large financial investment, which can be stressful for patients.

On the other hand, there is the possibility of having to cancel IVF treatment because of a poor response to medication or because viable embryos are not available for transfer, for example. Fertility centres should also inform patients of the possible risk of IVF cancellation before starting treatment.

In any case, the most important thing is to optimise assisted reproduction treatments to minimise the possibility of side effects and complications. In addition, it is essential to follow medical instructions to limit any IVF risks.

FAQs from users

Does IVF increase the risk of preterm labor?

By Victoria Rey Caballero M.D., M.Sc. (gynecologist).

Numerous scientific studies have shown a slightly increased risk of preterm delivery in children conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) compared to children conceived naturally.

It is also known that many of the causes of infertility in women who require IVF are the same causes that have a higher risk of preterm delivery. This is the example of diabetes, thyroid problems, alterations in the coagulation system, immune disorders, adenomyosis, fibroids, advanced age, etc.

What other problems can arise during IVF treatment?

By Zaira Salvador B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Apart from the rather physical risks that may arise during IVF, the psychological and emotional factor is also very present in all assisted reproduction patients. It is possible to suffer strong episodes of stress and anxiety, especially when receiving a diagnosis or a negative result.

Imagen: Problems associated with IVF cycles

On the other hand, financial problems can also arise due to the high cost of fertility treatments. If the treatment is financed, patients may have to spend several months paying for it even if they are not pregnant.

Does in vitro fertilization have any risk for the baby?

By Zaira Salvador B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

There are some studies that claim that children born through IVF have a slightly increased risk of congenital defects: 4.5% compared to 2-3% in the rest of the population. However, it is not proven that this is due to the assisted reproduction technique itself or, instead, to the infertility problems of the parents.

Recently, it has also been shown that children born by assisted reproduction do not necessarily suffer from infertility, since the first IVF child in the world, Louise Brown, was able to become a natural mother in 2006.

Suggested for you

Another risk of IVF is the possibility that the cycle may have to be canceled due to various complications that may arise during the treatment. You can find out what they are in the following article: When is IVF canceled?

In the case of transferring more than one embryo after IVF, there is a risk of having a multiple pregnancy with serious consequences for the health of the mother and the future baby. It’s important to know what these are. Find it out in the following article: Risks of multiple pregnancy.

We make a great effort to provide you with the highest quality information.

🙏 Please share this article if you liked it. 💜💜 You help us continue!


Edgardo Somigliana, Laura Benaglia, Alessio Paffoni, Andrea Busnelli, Paola Vigano, Paolo Vercellini. Risks of conservative management in women with ovarian endometriomas undergoing IVF. Hum Reprod Update. Jul-Aug 2015;21(4):486-99. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmv012 (View)

Norbert Gleicher, Vitally A Kushnir, David H Barad. Risks of spontaneously and IVF-conceived singleton and twin pregnancies differ, requiring reassessment of statistical premises favoring elective single embryo transfer (eSET). Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2016 May 3;14(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s12958-016-0160-2 (View)

P Cavoretto, M Candiani 1, V Giorgione, A Inversetti, M M Abu-Saba, F Tiberio 1, C Sigismondi, A Farina. Risk of spontaneous preterm birth in singleton pregnancies conceived after IVF/ICSI treatment: meta-analysis of cohort studies. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Jan;51(1):43-53. doi: 10.1002/uog.18930 (View)

Ziru Jiang, Yinyu Wang, Jing Lin, Jingjing Xu, Guolian Ding, Hefeng Huang. Genetic and epigenetic risks of assisted reproduction. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2017 Oct;44:90-104 (View)

FAQs from users: 'Does IVF increase the risk of preterm labor?', 'What other problems can arise during IVF treatment?' and 'Does in vitro fertilization have any risk for the baby?'.

Read more

Authors and contributors

 Victoria  Rey Caballero
Victoria Rey Caballero
M.D., M.Sc.
Dr. Victoria Rey Caballero has a degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Seville. She is also an expert in Health Informatics and Telemedicine from the UNED and has a diploma in Neonatal Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. In addition, Dr. Rey has a master's degree in hospital management from the University of Alcalá de Henares. More information about Victoria Rey Caballero
Licence number: 41/14915
 Marta Barranquero Gómez
Marta Barranquero Gómez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) in collaboration with Ginefiv and in Clinical Genetics by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH). More information about Marta Barranquero Gómez
License: 3316-CV
Adapted into english by:
 Romina Packan
Romina Packan
inviTRA Staff
Editor and translator for the English and German edition of inviTRA. More information about Romina Packan

Find the latest news on assisted reproduction in our channels.