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IVF Steroid Treatment May Do More Harm than Good

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Doctors and patients have been warned about the use of corticosteroids to treat infertility in women because of a link to miscarriage, preterm birth and birth defects.

Writing in Human Reproduction (, researchers from The University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, led by Prof Sarah Robertson, say that widespread use of corticosteroids such as prednisolone is not warranted given a high degree of suspicion that they can interfere with embryo implantation and may have harmful effects on pregnancy and the child.

Corticosteroids are increasingly used to treat infertility in women with repeated IVF failure and recurrent miscarriage. Many women receive the drug in the belief that reducing immune cells called “natural killer” cells will facilitate a pregnancy. However, this belief is mistaken as these cells are actually required for healthy pregnancy.

Robertson says there is a great deal of medical and consumer misunderstanding about the role of the immune system in fertility and healthy pregnancy. “Steroid drugs such as prednisolone act as immune suppressants, preventing the body’s immune system from responding to pregnancy. But by suppressing the natural immune response, these drugs may lead to further complications,” she says.

“The immune...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.