Cerebral Palsy and Infertility Drugs
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Some parents who have difficulties conceiving a child may turn to infertility drugs. While many parents have had healthy babies with the assistance of infertility treatments, studies confirm that the risk of having an infant with cerebral palsy is heightened.
Study on Infertility Drugs and Cerebral Palsy
According to a Danish study published in the Human Reproduction journal, research on close to 590,000 children in Denmark between 1995-2003 showed that infants conceived via infertility treatment were twice as likely to develop cerebral palsy. The study, led by Dr. Dorte Hvidtjorn, of Denmark’s University of Aarhus, included 33,139 children who were conceived through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and various types of infertility drugs.
Although the risk of having an infant with cerebral palsy increases by twofold when taking infertility treatments, the overall numbers are still considered low. Around 0.2 percent of the children included in the study were born with cerebral palsy. However, the risk was 55% higher for children born after their parents used infertility treatments.
Infertility Drugs and Twins, Triplets, and More
When infertility drugs are used, the chances of having twins, triplets, quadruplets and more increases. Multiple births result in a higher chance of at least one baby developing cerebral palsy.
Another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, states that women who take injectable hormones, or the infertility drug clomiphene citrate are much more likely to become pregnant with multiples.
In addition to an increased chance of cerebral palsy, infants born as multiples also run the risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and developmental delays. Infant death of one of the twins heightens the chance significantly of the surviving twin developing cerebral palsy.
Clomid, an oral hormone pill, increases the risks of parents having twins, which can lead to premature birth. This can lead to cerebral palsy and a number of other medical conditions.
In 2006, parents in Ontario, Canada were awarded $12 million after one of their twin girls was born with cerebral palsy. According to court documents, the twins’ mother took clomid, but was never told of the risks involved. The plaintiff that had she known what risks were involved with the drug, she would have never agreed to take it.
Experts Warn Women of Infertility Drug Risks
According to Alan R. Fleischman, M.D., the March of Dimes medical director, although infertility medications are commonly prescribed, many people are unaware of the risks.
“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 the use of these drugs, and that brings a high risk of prematurity and lifelong health problems for the babies as a consequence.”
Dr. Fleischman, who stated that more than 80,000 babies are born prematurely each year as a result of women having multi-fetal pregnancy, urges physicians and other experts to learn as much as possible about the consequences of prescribing infertility drugs, and in turn, use their leadership skills to spread awareness and education to women considering taking the medications.
“The March of Dimes urges more research and leadership from professional societies to develop specific guidelines and encourage acceptance of best practices for the proper use and dosage of fertility drugs, as well as the careful counseling and monitoring of women treated with these drugs. Women who are taking fertility drugs should always ask their doctor what they can do to prevent having a multi-fetal pregnancy.”
A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports the findings on the increased risk of multiples and cerebral palsy. The study also showed that same-sex twins are more likely to develop cerebral palsy when compared to twins of the opposite sex.