In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a fertility treatment for women who cannot become pregnant without medical intervention. A number of factors, including male or female infertility or a combination of both can cause couples to turn to IVF. During IVF, women take ovarian-stimulating medications to increase the number of eggs produced. Eggs are fertilized in the IVF lab and the resulting embryos are implanted into the uterus. Despite all this, IVF does not always result in pregnancy. After a failed cycle, a woman may lose weight for several reasons.
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Several of the medications used for IVF, including progesterone -- used after the embryo transfer to facilitate embryo implantation -- can cause fluid retention. Gonadotropins, drugs used to stimulate egg development so that more eggs are produced during an IVF cycle, can also cause temporary weight gain. Once a woman stops these medications, weight loss may occur.
Resolution of Ovarian Hyperstimulation
Not all women who go through an IVF cycle develop ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), side effects from excessive stimulation of the ovaries. The 1 percent who do, however, often retain large amounts of fluid. If OHSS is mild, light weight gain may occur, but in moderate or severe cases, weight gain can exceed two lbs. per day, according to Georgia Reproductive Specialists. Fluid retention can cause difficulty breathing along with a number of other symptoms. It can take up to 10 weeks for OHSS to resolve and all excess fluid to be lost. Resolution of OHSS can lead to weight loss several weeks after a failed IVF cycle.
While women undergoing IVF may understand intellectually that IVF doesn’t guarantee that pregnancy will occur, expectations run very high. An IVF cycle involves the output of large amounts of cash along with significant time demands for blood draws, ultrasounds and the retrieval and transfer procedures. After a failed cycle, many women feel let down and depressed. Women undergoing IVF often have a higher rate of depression, lower self-esteem and less confidence than fertile women, Kim Pearson, MD of Massachusetts General Hospital reports, stating that depression often increases after a failed cycle. In some women, depression can cause disinterest in food, leading to weight loss.
If weight loss continues after a failed IVF cycle, seek help. While it’s easy to blame a failed cycle for circumstances that appear after IVF, other factors could be causing continuing weight loss. Infection or hormonal imbalances such as hyperthyroidism or adrenal insufficiency could cause unexplained weight loss. See your medical practitioner for an exam for a proper diagnosis.