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HomeWellnessWomen's HealthAre infertility treatments safe for the mother-to-be?

Are infertility treatments safe for the mother-to-be?

A recent article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal assessed the maternal risks associated with infertility treatments.

Every year, up to 4% of births in Canada result from the use of infertility treatments. Treatments such as in vitro fertilization and ovulation induction provide couples who have difficulty getting pregnant with the opportunity to have children. However, what effects do these infertility treatments have on the mother’s health?

To investigate these risks, researchers used the Better Outcomes Registry & Network to retrieve data on live births and stillbirths of women 18-60 years old who were residents of Ontario. This data was linked to data from several other databases reporting health and demographic information of these women and women who did not use infertility treatments. They published their results in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

For this study, researchers were interested in maternal morbidity or death at any point from 20-weeks gestation until 42 days after their hospital discharge date. In total, data for 11965 women who had infertility treatments, and 47553 women who did not were included in the study.

Infertility treatments are linked to an increased risk of complications

The risk of morbidity or death was 1.39 for women who underwent infertility treatments versus 1.23 for women who did not. Among women who had infertility treatments, 235 who underwent invasive treatments and 121 who underwent non-invasive treatments experienced severe morbidity or died, respectively.

The data also showed that the risk of maternal morbidity and death increased after 40 years of age and in cases where the mother had twins or triplets. Of the 44 indicators of morbidity, hemorrhaging after giving birth, admission to the intensive care unit, and infection of the uterine tissues were the most common, and they were linked to infertility treatments, particularly invasive ones.

Future research should establish factors of maternal morbidity

Although the maternal morbidity and deaths are rare in Canada, the study shows women who undergo invasive fertility treatments are at an increased risk for these events. Future research should be geared towards establishing the factors that contribute to maternal morbidity in order for health professionals to offer women the most appropriate and optimal treatment options.

Written by Monica Naatey-Ahumah, BSc

Reference: Dayan, N., Joseph, K.s., Fell, D.B., Laskin, C.A., Bassa, O.,…Ray, J.G. (2019). Infertility treatment and risk of severe maternal morbidity: a propensity score–matched cohort study. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 191(5), E118-E127. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.181124

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