Risks to mother & child from aggressive IVFProfessor Geeta Nargund, head of reproductive medicine at St George's Hospital in south London, has voiced her concerns at a conference in Copenhagen about aggressive and unnecesary IVF procedures.
Professor Nargund said there was increasing evidence that stimulating the ovaries with high doses of drugs to produce large numbers of eggs for harvesting, was damaging to women's health and caused chromosomal abnormalities to resulting embryos. This is the standard method of IVF used in the UK.
Professor Nargund said: "High-dose stimulation can have distressing side effects on the woman, the most serious of which is called Ovarian Hyper-stimulation Syndrome (OHSS). This condition in its severe form is potentially fatal and women have died. A recent confidential inquiry into maternal deaths in the UK showed that OHSS was now one of the biggest causes of maternal mortality in England and Wales."
Professor Nargund went on to state, "There is no doubt that women subjected to this kind of stimulation are at serious health risk."
Figures obtained from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) showed that between between 1991 and 2007 there were almost 30,000 cases of OHSS - which can cause chest pains, shortness of breath, and in rare cases, kidney failure and death. In 2010, 45,000 women were given IVF treatment in the UK.
Mild IVF treatment
Using "mild" IVF with less toxic drugs to stimulate the ovaries produces fewer eggs and a lower pregnancy rate per cycle but means recovery is quicker and women can repeat the treatment within a month, whereas it takes months to recover from standard IVF.
Treatment in other clinics
Clinics in other countries, such as Scandinavia, Belgium, Holland, France, Canada, Japan and South Korea use mild IVF, whereas the high-dose version of treatment is favoured the US and the UK.
IVF cost implications
Aggressive IVF treatment is also considerably more expensive than milder IVF treatment.