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Drugs May Level Fertility Playing Field for the Obese

Reuters,  Jan 6, 2010
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Heavy women often have a harder time getting pregnant than their slimmer peers, but new findings suggest weight may cease to matter when women take fertility drugs.

In a report in the journal Fertility and Sterility, scientists say that the "weight effect" is overcome by a higher dose of ovulation-stimulating drugs, which ensures obese women have a similar concentration of the hormones as those with a lower body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height.

The report shows 25 percent of normal, 37 percent of overweight, and 36 percent of obese women who sought out treatments conceived with them.

These fertility rates are about equal, even though they look slightly inflated in larger women, said Dr. Irene Souter, lead author on the study. This is because the study included fewer heavy women, so just one more pregnancy means a big difference.

With the higher drug dose, "you bring the chances of conceiving close to that of a normal woman, and you've got a good chance of a live birth," she said. "I wouldn't say that obese women do better, I would say that they have a comparable outcome."

A problem with requiring a bigger dose of fertility drug is that the costs go up, Souter said, with an obese woman paying, on average, roughly $200 more than the lower BMI categories. The total cost of this treatment, which is a combination of fertility drugs and artificial insemination, can range from several hundred dollars to around $1200.

There are also slight risks associated with the ovulation-stimulating injections, including enlarged ovaries, multiple births and pregnancy complications, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

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