Steroid Use Fails to Boost Pregnancy Rates in Infertility Treatments

Armen Hareyan's picture
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There is no clear benefit from a hormone commonly prescribed to enhance the effectiveness of infertility treatments, according to a new review of studies.

The steroid hormones called glucocorticoids have potent effects on the body's inflammatory and immune responses, so many fertility specialists prescribe them in hopes of making the lining of the uterus more receptive to embryo implantation. But lead review author Carolien Boomsma says that routine practice should stop.

"This meta-analysis shows that empirical use of glucocorticoids is not supported by evidence from studies," she said. "Moreover, we don't know enough about the possible adverse effects of glucocorticoids in early pregnancy. Therefore, at present, glucocorticoids should not be prescribed in this way," said Boomsma, a researcher at the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands.

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The review appears in the most recent issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

The review compares success rates between would-be mothers who took glucocorticoids around the time of embryo implantation and those who did not. All of the women underwent one of two types of assisted reproductive technology. In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves removing mature eggs from a woman's ovary, mixing them with sperm in the laboratory, and placing the embryos in the woman's reproductive tract. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is another in vitro fertilization practice where a single sperm is injected directly into a harvested egg.

The meta-analysis pooled data from 13 studies including 1,759 couples. Every study was a randomized controlled trial, which is considered the most reliable form of scientific evidence.

The review found no overall improvement in pregnancy rates when the assisted reproductive technologies were combined with glucocorticoid treatment. However, six of the studies

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