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Stillbirth and IVF/ICSI


by Jennifer Redmond, Editor-in-Chief, Mar. 9, 2010

According to new research, women who conceive a single pregnancy with IVF/ICSI are at an increased risk of stillbirth.

The study published in Human Reproduction in February 2010, compared the risks of stillbirth in more than 20,000 women who had IVF/ICSI from 1989 to 2006 to the risk in women who did not undergo fertility treatment. The results of the study are as follows:

  • The risk of stillbirth in women who conceived after IVF/ICSI was 16.2 percent.
  • The risk of stillbirth in women who conceived after non-IVF ART was 2.3 percent.
  • In fertile and subfertile women, the risk of stillbirth was 3.7 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.
  • Compared with fertile women, women who conceived after IVF/ICSI had more than four times the risk of stillbirth, and adjustments for maternal age, BMI, education, smoking habits and alcohol and coffee intake during pregnancy had only minor impact on the findings.
  • The risk of stillbirth in women who conceived after non-IVF ART and in women who conceived spontaneously with a waiting time to pregnancy of a year or more was not significantly different from the risk in women with a shorter time to pregnancy.

    [Read more about the study here.]

    “While this is an intriguing paper,” says James Goldfarb, M.D., President of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), “it’s important that the findings be kept in context. Other studies, even recent ones from very similar countries, have not found this large an increase in miscarriage rates for IVF pregnancies.”

    “Moreover, when attempting to assess the impact of infertility treatments, we always must be careful that we are not simply seeing evidence of the disease itself. It should not surprise anyone to learn that patients getting infertility treatments have a more difficult time conceiving, carrying and delivering healthy children. That difficulty is what defines the disease of infertility and led those patients to seek treatment in the first place,” he adds.

    Dr. Kristen Wisborg, who led the study, states that further investigation is necessary. “It is important to remember that the risk of stillbirth is still very low among women pregnant after IVF/ICSI. At this stage, we do not know whether the increased risk in women pregnant after IVF/ICSI is due to the fertility treatment or to unknown factors pertaining to couples who undergo IVF/ICSI,” she cautions.

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