Complications from premature births blamed on fertility drug

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The March of Dimes in January announced that fertility drugs, not just assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) like in vitro, were responsible for the increase in premature births in the United States. The premature births are resulting from the higher incidence of multiples created through the fertility drugs.

The study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by authors from the CDC and March of Dimes found that controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH) drugs which are used to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to speed the maturity and multiply the production of eggs accounts for four times more live births than types of ARTs like in vitro fertilization. That’s a big wow.

“Many people have focused on the role of ARTs in multiples and have not fully appreciated that fertility drugs alone are responsible for one out of every five multiple births,” said Alan R. Fleischman, MD, March of Dimes. “COH drugs are widely prescribed, and some health care professionals - and their patients - are not aware of the serious risks of fertility drugs to women and their babies. There is a very high possibility of multi-fetal pregnancy resulting from use of these drugs, and that brings a high risk of prematurity and lifelong health problems for the babies as a consequence.” They list some very scary numbers to support their position: 540,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the US. Preterm babies cost more than $26 million annually. Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death. The surviving babies face the risk of lifelong health problems such as breathing problems, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, vision and hearing loss.

They recommend specific guidelines be developed so the drugs are not prescribed without serious consideration of all side effects for mother and child(ren). Dr. Fleischman noted that approximately 88,000 babies are born preterm annually as a result of the recent increase of twins, triplets and other multiple births. As many as 60% of twins, 90% of triplets, and virtually all quadruplets and higher multiples are born prematurely. Interestingly, it’s not just the multiples, but the singletons resulting from COH intervention who are born prematurely and often with all the complications the multiples experience.

The March of Dimes position is that it is critical for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and other interested medical groups to develop clear guidelines on the sue of fertility drugs to help prevent these complicated births.

Source: ScienceDaily, March of Dimes


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