Fertility Journal

Can IVF drugs increase the risk of Down’s Syndrome in older women?

A woman is born with all the eggs she will release during her reproductive life. It is well known that women over 35 have an increased risk of having a baby affected by Down’s Syndrome. It is for this reason that egg donors must be under the age of 36 years.

Can drugs used to stimulate egg growth in IVF increase the risk of Down’s Syndrome in older women? If so, are the drugs affecting normal eggs or stimulating the growth of pre-existing abnormal eggs that would not have ovulated naturally?

UK researchers presented findings at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Stockholm which suggest that the drugs used in IVF programmes may alter the genetic make-up of eggs.

It is however important not to get such research findings out of perspective. The majority of women over 35 who become pregnant through IVF using their own eggs, and who do not miscarry, have healthy normal babies.

It is possible to determine the genetic make-up (karyotyppe) of embryos before they are transferred using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Once pregnant, antenatal screening tests can exclude Down’s Syndrome and other genetic disorders.

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