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Prior fertility treatment is associated with higher maternal morbidity during delivery

Women who have received an infertility diagnosis or fertility treatment are at higher risk during delivery of heart failure, anesthesia complications, hysterectomy, and blood transfusions, among other markers of morbidity



Investigators from the Stanford Hospital and Clinics in California found that while absolute risk is low, women who have received an infertility diagnosis or who have received fertility treatment are at higher risk of several markers of severe maternal morbidity than women who never received an infertility diagnosis or fertility treatment.1 The study results were presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) 2018 annual meeting (October 6 to 10, Denver, Colorado).

Gaya Murugappan, MD, lead investigator on the study, explained in an interview with OBG Management, “We know that in the last decade or so the rate of maternal morbidity has been rising gradually in the US, and we know that the utilization of fertility technology and the incidence of infertility are also rising.” The retrospective analysis set out to determine if a connection exists.

Methods. The investigators used a large insurance claims database to look at data from 2003 to 2016. They identified a group of infertile women who later conceived without fertility treatment (n=1822 deliveries) and a group of women who received fertility treatment (n=782 deliveries) and compared them with a control group of women who never received an infertility diagnosis or fertility treatment (n=37,944 deliveries). Women who currently or previously had cancer were excluded from the study.

The primary outcome was the number of indicators of severe maternal morbidity that occurred during the 6 months prior to or following delivery.

Findings. Compared with the control group, the women diagnosed with infertility were almost 4 times as likely to experience severe anesthesia complications (0.38% vs 0.11%; odds ratio [OR], 3.83; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.69–8.70), about twice as likely to experience intraoperative heart failure (0.71% vs 0.31%; OR, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.05–3.34), and more than 3 times as likely to receive a hysterectomy (1.04% vs 0.28%; OR, 3.30; 95% CI, 2.02–5.40).

Similarly, compared with controls, women who had received fertility treatment had an OR of 2.66 for disseminated intravascular coagulation (2.81% vs 0.91%; 95% CI, 1.66–4.24), an OR of 5.17 for shock (0.90% vs 0.15%; 95% CI, 2.21–12.06), an OR of 1.61 for blood transfusions (3.71% vs 1.64%; 95% CI, 1.07–2.42), and an OR of 1.43 for cardiac monitoring (13.17% vs 8.14%; 95% CI, 1.14–1.79).

More research is needed. Dr. Murugappan noted,I hope that these data help us identify high-risk populations of women so that we can minimize the occurrence of these potentially devastating health outcomes. Women need to be telling their ObGyns that they have a history of infertility and/or fertility treatment. Some women may not want to say that they conceived with donor egg, for example, but that could be a critical element of a patient’s history that an ObGyn should be aware of.”

More study is necessary, she added. For instance, “a study in the future looking at risk of maternal morbidity in patients who are infertile but then who go on to conceive spontaneously. Then we can tease out what is the effect of infertility versus the effect of fertility treatment.”

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