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Do IVF Pregnancies Raise Death Risk for Mothers?

British Doctors Say Risk Is Small but Real; U.S. Experts Aren’t So Sure
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U.S. Perspective continued...

“The population of people who need IVF may add special contributing factors to the risk of death during their pregnancy,” he says. Multiple pregnancies are more likely as a result of IVF, which also increases risks to moms and babies.

The new findings may not apply to the U.S. due to differences in obstetrical care, he says.

“We manage risks better [here], and do reductions more in multiple pregnancies,” Grifo says. The best way to protect the mother’s health and that of the baby regardless of how the pregnancy occurred is good prenatal care.

“If there are things about the pregnancy that increases their risk, women should be cared for by high-risk obstetricians who know how to manage complications and take them seriously,” he says.

Risks Inherent

“I have never heard of anyone dying from IVF in the U.S.,” says SART President R. Stan Williams, MD, the chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Florida in Gainesville.

In the new report, “they are comparing apples to oranges when they compare pregnancy in the general population to IVF pregnancies,” he says.

“The first major difference is the ages,” he says. "The majority of people getting IVF are in their mid-30s, and the majority of women in the general population who get pregnant are in their 20s.”

The underlying disease process that caused fertility problems in the first place is also a factor.

That said, every procedure does have some inherent risks, including IVF.

“There are risks with IVF, I don’t deny it,” he says. “The risks are rare but they are real and need to be taken into account when thinking about using IVF to have a baby.”

Many couples may downplay or even ignore the risks due to their desire to have children, he says.

“It is the physician’s responsibility to make sure they are not driven only by the goal of establishing a pregnancy and that they really understand any and all risks that they are taking,” says Gerald Scholl, MD, associate chief of human reproduction at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.

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