FSH, or follicle stimulating hormone, is commonly used by physicians as a treatment for infertility in women. Normally, FSH is produced by the pituitary gland and is responsible for stimulating the follicles in a woman’s ovaries to produce a mature egg that can be released into the uterus. Injections of FSH can be used to induce this process in women who have low FSH levels. However, using FSH as a fertility treatment can result in a number of side effects. These side effects range from minor to life threatening.
A common side effect of FSH treatment is an increased incidence of multiple births. In these cases, the FSH injections work all too well and end up stimulating multiple ovarian follicles to bring eggs to maturity. If all of these eggs are successfully released into the uterus and fertilized, the result can be the birth of twins, triplets, quadruplets or even more.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome occurs when the blood vessels in the ovaries react to FSH injections by swelling with fluid. This fluid can leak into the abdomen causing bloating, abdominal and ovarian pain, nausea and diarrhea. In rare cases, the condition can become life threatening, with the woman experiencing severe pain, uncontrollable vomiting, a sharp upswing in weight gain (5 to 10 lb. in several days) and significantly decreased amounts of urine.
FSH injections may also cause disruptions in the respiratory system. Women have reported experiencing chest tightness and difficulty breathing, as well as an increase in attacks for asthma sufferers. In some cases, the injections can cause fluid to build up in the lungs.
Circulatory problems may develop from the FSH injection’s tendency to cause clots to develop in otherwise normal blood vessels. If these clots break loose and become lodged in other parts of the circulatory system, blocking healthy blood flow, they can cause serious medical conditions such as a stroke or–if they block portions of the lung–a pulmonary embolism.
Minor Side Effects
According to the American Pregnancy Association, complaints such as breast tenderness, a rash at the site of the FSH injection, depression, fatigue and headaches are the most reported FSH side effects. Bloating and an increased incidence of upper respiratory tract and sinus infections are also common effects of the treatment.