Steroid treatment for infertility 'may be harmful'

9 September 2016

Concerns have been raised that a specific steroid treatment to treat infertility in women could be actively harmful in many cases.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide have published a paper in the journal Human Reproduction suggesting that corticosteroids - which are increasingly used to treat infertility in women with repeated in vitro fertilisation failure and recurrent miscarriage - may cause more harm than good.

Steroid drugs such as prednisolone act as immunosuppressants to ostensibly prevent the body's immune system from interfering with pregnancies, but in many cases patients do not realise the immune system plays a critical role in building a robust placenta to support healthy foetal growth.

As such, inappropriate corticosteroid usage can lead to an elevated risk of miscarriage, premature birth and birth defects, meaning such therapies cannot be recommended to the majority of women.

Professor Sarah Robertson from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute said: "We believe IVF doctors should not be offering this treatment to most patients, and should discuss concerns with women who request it."

It was noted that corticosteroids might be helpful in specific cases where the patient has a diagnosed autoimmune condition, but such instances are rare.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

 


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