Normally, a woman releases 1 egg per month. Women who have a hard time getting pregnant may be given medicines to help them release multiple eggs.
The ovaries can become very swollen if the medicines stimulate the ovaries too much. Fluid can leak into the belly and chest. This is called OHSS. It happens only after the eggs are released from the ovary (ovulation).
OHSS rarely happens in women who only take fertility medicines by mouth.
OHSS happens in 3 to 6 out of 100 of women who go through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
You may be more likely to get OHSS if you:
- Get a shot of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
- Become pregnant during the cycle
- Are younger than age 35
- Have a very high estrogen level during fertility treatments
- Have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Early hyperstimulation often starts 1 to 3 days after retrieval. It peaks in 7 days and tends to get better by 10 to 14 days.
Hyperstimulation can start more than 7 days after retrieval. This often happens with pregnancy.
Signs of OHSS can range from mild to severe. Most women have mild signs, such as:
- Mild pain in the belly
In rare cases, women can have more serious signs, such as:
- Rapid weight gain (5 pounds overnight)
- Severe pain or swelling in the belly
- Less peeing than normal
- Feeling short of breath
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
If you have more serious signs your care team will check you for OHSS. They will weigh you. You may have other tests done also. Tests that may be done are:
- Abdominal or vaginal ultrasound
- Chest x-ray
- Blood work
- Tests to measure urine (pee) output
Mild cases often do not need to be treated. Weigh yourself each morning to be sure you are not gaining too much weight. You should not gain more than 5 pounds overnight.
In the rare case you get severe OHSS, you may need to go to a hospital. You will get fluids through a vein (intravenous fluids). They may also remove fluid that has collected in your body and watch your condition.
Ease your discomfort by:
- Getting plenty of rest with your legs raised. This helps your body release the fluid. Do some light activity unless your doctor tells you different.
- Drink 1 to 1.5 liters of fluids with electrolytes, such as Gatorade®, G2®, or Propel®.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks, such as colas or coffee.
- Do not do intense exercise or have sexual intercourse. These can cause ovarian discomfort. They may also cause ovarian cysts to rupture or leak. It can also cause the ovaries to twist and cut off blood flow (ovarian torsion).
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®).
Most mild cases go away on their own after menstruation starts. It can take many days to feel better if you have a more severe case. You may get worse and take weeks to feel better if you become pregnant during OHSS.
In rare cases, OHSS can lead to life-threatening problems, such as:
- Blood clots
- Kidney failure
- Severe electrolyte imbalance
- Severe fluid buildup in the belly or chest
Call your care team if you:
- Pee less than normal
- Gain more than 5 pounds overnight
- Have nausea or vomiting (you cannot keep food or liquids down)
- Have severe abdominal pain
- Feel short of breath
- Have a severe headache, feel dizzy or weak, have visual changes, or have calf tenderness