German women who conceal egg donation put themselves, babies in danger

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Women who become pregnant after egg donation should tell their obstetricians because they need to be treated as high-risk patients, researchers in Germany have found.

Those who become pregnant after egg donation are at risk for developing high blood pressure, which can be life threatening, and the women may not be able to carry their pregnancy to term, said researchers at the University Hospital Aachen, who studied women whose pregnancies originated with donated eggs.

Women in Germany may not admit to having received an egg donation because since 1990 Germany has outlawed it as a reproductive technology.

As a result, German women with fertility issues have been going to neighboring countries, including the Czech Republic and Spain, to have eggs implanted. When they return home and seek medical care, they may conceal the origin of their pregnancy from the doctor treating them for fear of stigmatization and reprisals, said Ulrich Pecks, MD, and co-authors writing in the January issue of Deutsches Ă„rzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl In 2011; 108[3]: 23-31).

The researchers suspected a problem after three women at their hospital who were pregnant with donated eggs between 2008 and 2009 developed severe hypertension and had to have their pregnancies terminated prematurely. Their neonates did not survive.

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The researchers then analyzed recent literature for cases where women had undergone egg implantation and studied other cases at their institution.

They found an increased risk for hypertension when women become pregnant by means of donated eggs at fertilization centers. The risk of hypertensive related disorders was the same regardless of the age of the mother or how many pregnancies she had had, the researchers said.

Because of the potential danger, obstetricians should explicitly ask their patients whether they have undergone fertilization with donated eggs, the researchers concluded. If they say yes, the women should be directed to obstetricians who specialize in high-risk pregnancies.

Egg donation has been in use for more than 25 years to treat unwanted childlessness in many countries worldwide.

In 1990, when Germany passed a law protecting embryos, it explicitly forbid women from conceiving as the result of receiving donated eggs.

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