Debra Demidon received her first IVF treatment in her mid-20s. It was also her last. Following the procedure, she gained 30 pounds in fluid and was having difficulty breathing.
She was diagnosed with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a rare but serious complication of IVF treatments using high-dose hormones.
In high-dose hormone treatments used in IVF, the patient receives a drug such as Lupron, that suppresses the functions of the ovaries. The patient then receives follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, in order to stimulate egg production.
These high doses of hormone can result in up to 30 eggs being released. Alternative low-dose methods result in about 10 eggs.
High-dose IVF is more common in the United States, since IVF is expensive and patients are interested in maximizing their potential pregnancy rates per cycle.
Japan and many European countries utilize low-dose methods of IVF due to the decreased risk of complications.
OHSS is more common is high-dose IVF procedures due to the high levels of hormones and occurs in about 10% of patients. The artificial stimulation of the ovaries can cause them to become swollen with fluid. A secondary side effect is when the accumulated fluid leaks into the abdominal or thoracic cavities, as was the case with Debra Demidon.
Fertility specialists disagree on the whether patients should pursue high or low dose IVF.
For patients on a limited budget, the larger egg release associated with high-dose methods seems more economical.
However, proponents of low dose methods point out that the hospitalizations as a result of complications are also costly.