Donor egg pregnancy risk revealed

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Results from a study have shown that women who become pregnant by using donated eggs are at three times the risk of developing major complications.

These cases are four times more likely to suffer from pre-eclampsia and have three times the risk of suffering from high blood pressure during the pregnancy than other women undergoing fertility treatment.

Previous studies that have been done in this regard indicated that there were increased risks for those women to make use of donor eggs to become pregnant.

However, it was not known if the increased risk was linked to the older age of the women who were not able to produce their own eggs.

Most females who look for donor eggs are aged over 40. The numbers going abroad due to a shortage of donors has increased dramatically.

The new study which involved around 500 pregnancies in women with an average age of 35 found that the use of a donor egg increased the risks, irrespective of the woman’s age.

It was found that about 18% of females using donor eggs suffered high blood pressure, compared with 5% of women undergoing other fertility treatment. The risk of pre-eclampsia, which is linked to high blood pressure, increased from 2.8% to 11.2%.

Researchers said that the problems may stem from changes in the immune tolerance of the embryo when it came into contact with female genes which differ from those of the recipient of the egg.

Doctors have stated that it may be possible in future for egg donors and recipients to be matched genetically in a bid to improve the immune tolerance.

The Institut Mutualiste Monsouris, Paris’ Dr Helene Letur, said that the aim of the study was to discover if donor egg pregnancies were really linked to higher pre-eclampsia and hypertension risks than when the mother’s own eggs are used during treatment. She stated that the results prove the higher risk factors related to egg donor pregnancies.

The French study involved the examination of 580 pregnancies between 2005 and 2011. This included 217 involving donated eggs.

It was found that age made a small difference, but other factors, such as whether the female had been pregnant previously or had undergone IVF had no significant impact.

The researchers have stated that the high incidence of high blood pressure in the egg donor group indicated that both patients and doctors should be more aware of the risks involved. The researchers have stated that the increase in blood pressure may be an attempt by the body to improve the exchange of oxygen and nutrients between the mother and the foetus.

Image Credit: Phil Campbell

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