Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

Many couples struggling with infertility choose to pursue IVF and IUI procedures in order to increase their chances of conceiving a child. If you have chosen to undergo one of these procedures, you may be given various fertility drugs to help stimulate your ovaries.

Known as ovulation induction, this helps your ovaries to produce numerous egg follicles in preparation for ovulation. In the majority of patients, ovulation induction is safe and effective. However, this type of fertility treatment can sometimes result in a serious health complication, known as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). If left untreated, OHSS can lead to serious health side effects.

What is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome?

OHSS is a complication associated with ovulation induction. Ovulation induction is commonly performed with IVF and IUI infertility treatment procedures in order to increase your chances of conception.

It uses specific types of fertility drugs (including Clomid and gonadotropins) to increase the number of follicles in your ovaries. Sometimes, however, too many follicles begin to develop in the ovaries, causing them to become swollen and enlarged. Known as OHSS, this syndrome can cause severe pain and trigger the release of fluid into the abdomen and lungs.

Types of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

OHSS is classified according to its severity.

There are three degrees of OHSS:

  • Mild: Mild OHSS occurs when your ovaries are swollen, but no bigger than five centimeters.
  • Moderate: Moderate OHSS occurs when your ovaries are swollen to a size between five and ten centimeters.
  • Severe: Severe OHSS occurs when your ovaries are swollen to a size greater than ten centimeters.

What Causes Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome?

Know one is really sure why OHSS occurs. It is triggered by an abnormal reaction to ovulation inducers, particularly gonadotropin therapy. However, it remains unknown why some women react so severely to these types of fertility medications.

Who’s At Risk for Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome?

Any woman undergoing ovulation induction is at risk for developing OHSS. The syndrome is relatively common, occurring in up to 10% of women undergoing IVF or IUI treatment procedures. However, it is rarely severe.

Certain factors do seem to increase your risk of developing OHSS.

These risk factors include:

  • being under the age of 30
  • being underweight
  • having PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • having a previous incidence of OHSS
  • using high levels of hCG
  • using GnRH agonists


Table of Contents
1. Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
2. Watch out for OHSS
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