According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), possible side effects of injectable fertility medicines include:

  • Mild bruising and soreness at the injection site (using different sites for the injections can help)
  • Nausea and, occasionally, vomiting
  • Temporary allergic reactions, such as skin reddening and/or itching at the injection site
  • Breast tenderness and increased vaginal discharge
  • Mood swings and fatigue
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)

Most symptoms of OHSS (nausea, bloating, ovarian discomfort) are mild. They usually go away without treatment within a few days after the retrieval. In severe cases, OHSS can cause large amounts of fluid to build up in the abdomen (belly) and lungs. This can cause very enlarged ovaries, dehydration, trouble breathing, and severe abdominal pain. Very rarely (in less than 1% of women having egg retrieval for IVF), OHSS can lead to blood clots and kidney failure. For more information about OHSS, see the ASRM fact sheet Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Earlier reports from several decades ago suggested a link between ovarian cancer and the use of fertility medicines. However, more recent and well-done studies are reassuring and do not show this association.

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), possible side effects of the Egg Retrieval Procedure include:

During the egg retrieval, your doctor uses vaginal ultrasound to guide the insertion of a long, thin needle through your vagina into the ovary and then into each follicle to retrieve eggs. Possible risks for this procedure include:

  • Mild to moderate pelvic and abdominal pain (during or after). In most cases, the pain disappears within a day or two and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications.
  • Injury to organs near the ovaries, such as the bladder, bowel, or blood vessels. Rarely, bowel or blood vessel injury can require emergency surgery and, occasionally, blood transfusions.
  • Pelvic infection (mild to severe). Pelvic infections following egg retrieval or embryo transfer are not common. Severe infection may require hospitalization and/or treatment with intravenous antibiotics.
  • Rarely, surgery may be required to remove one or both of the ovaries and tubes and/or uterus. Women who have had pelvic infections or endometriosis involving the ovaries are more likely to get IVF-related infections.

Potential Risks of Anesthesia for the Egg Retrieval Procedure include:

Most cases of oocyte retrieval rely on intravenous anesthesia or intravenous conscious sedation. Lawrence Tsen, associate professor in anesthesia at the Harvard Medical School has indicated that the risk of anesthesia in the healthy, young women that become egg donors is generally very low. Although, the risks are considered to be very low in the egg donor population; the potential risks of anesthesia include allergic or unpredicted response to anesthetic medication, nausea, vomiting, inability to manage their own airway requiring medical intervention, aspiration, heart attack, stroke and death.

American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). (2015). In vitro fertilization; what are the risks?. In Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

Giudice, L., Santa, E., & Pool, R. (Eds.). (n.d.). Assessing the medical risks of human oocyte donation... In Institute of Medicine and National Research Council Workshop Report (pp. 31-40). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.