Does fertility medication carry any long-term health risks, such as ovarian or breast cancer?

There have been studies conducted assessing the potential risk of ovarian cancer following IVF treatment. Theories and their findings have yet to conclude anything substantial in terms of a direct link. Studies that have been conducted have taken place over an extensive range of time in order to carefully assess possible risk of ovarian tumours, especially in women who have had up to 12 (or more) IVF cycles.

The direct relationship between IVF medication use and ovarian cancer risk is a complex one and may have more to do with infertility problems itself. Infertility itself may have an increased risk for direct cause, more so than the use of IVF medications. Studies have also looked at a possible link between fertility medications inducing growth in existing indolent tumours (tumours that do not cause pain). Findings in these studies are yet to prove anything conclusively.

Studies are ongoing, but as of yet have not managed to conclusively prove a direct causal link between the taking of IVF medications and ovarian cancer, as well as uterine or breast cancer.

Is it painful to administer IVF medications (injections)?

Fertility specialists and their attending staff at clinics are on hand to instruct, support or assist with administering injectable medications during a cycle of treatment.

Injections are mostly done just under the skin (subcutaneously) with a few administered as intramuscular (into the muscle) on either side of the abdomen. Intramuscular injections may cause more discomfort. Depending on a woman’s pain threshold, mild discomfort is more likely to be expected with injecting medications on such a frequent basis. For the most part, bloating is a bigger issue for many.

Pain may be experienced during the harvesting or egg retrieval stage of an IVF cycle.

Should a woman refrain from all exercise during IVF treatment?

A woman need not feel like she must sit still and barely move while undergoing IVF treatment. Some exercise is a good thing. A woman will be advised to cease any high-impact forms of exercise during a treatment cycle, and rather opt for lower-impact forms such as walking, swimming, cycling or yoga. 

The main concern regarding exercise relates to the egg harvesting stage of a treatment cycle. Most exercise routines may need to be decreased considerably as a woman nears this stage of her treatment. This is to try and prevent ovarian torsion, where the ovary begins to twist on itself (which can have serious side-effects).

What other considerations should a woman consider while undergoing IVF treatment?

  • Hair colouring and chemical treatments: During the initial few weeks of treatment (ovarian stimulation) hair colouring or hair treatments are not a problem. Towards to mid to final stages of treatment, a woman should avoid any hair chemical applications altogether. It is also best to wait at least 12 weeks into a new pregnancy before using any chemical applications on the hair.
  • Manicures and pedicures: These should not cause any harm to a woman undergoing IVF treatment or during pregnancy, should the procedure prove successful. If treatments are done, a well-ventilated area is best.
  • Travel: It is not advisable to arrange any travel during a treatment cycle. A woman will need to be available for multiple follow-ups and testing checks during treatment.
  • Sexual intercourse: Once embryo transfer has taken place, a woman will be advised not to engage in sexual intercourse for at least two weeks (of after the results of a pregnancy test have come through). If a woman becomes pregnant and does not experience any physical discomfort (pain or bleeding), intercourse is safe to engage in within a few weeks.
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