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Study Finds Standard IVF might not be Effective for Obese Women

Update Date: Mar 20, 2014 01:33 PM EDT

Obesity is a dangerous disease that can lead to several health complications, which increase one's risk of death. Not only can obesity kill, recent studies have found that obesity can reduce the effectiveness of certain drugs, such as the emergency morning-after pill. In a new study, researchers found that standard in vitro fertilization (IVF) medication doses might not be strong enough for obese women.

For this study, researchers recruited 10 obese and 10 normal weight women in order to test the effects of IVF medications based on varying weights. During IVF, doctors have to first extract the sperm and an egg from the couple and mixed them together in a laboratory setting. The embryo must then be transferred into the woman's uterus. In order to ensure that the embryo is placed successfully, women are required to take a GnRH antagonist that helps prevent ovulation from starting too early, which could hurt the body's ability to harvest the implanted egg.

"If the GnRH antagonist clears from a woman's body too quickly, there is a risk that the brain will signal the body to discharge the eggs from the ovaries too early," said one of the study's authors, Nanette Santoro, MD, of the University of Colorado at Denver.

The researchers administered one dose of the GnRH antagonist to all 20 patients. The team then took blood samples frequently for six hours. The first sample was taken starting eight hours after the dose was given. The researchers found that in the obese women, the dose was absorbed more quickly, which meant that the medication was cleared out of the system at a faster rate than it did in the normal weight women. Roughly 50 percent of the obese women also experienced a rebound of a hormone that prompts the body to release eggs.

"We were surprised to find obese women were more likely to experience this, and it may be one reason why overweight and obese women have a higher rate of unsuccessful IVF cycles than normal weight women do," Santoro stated.

The researchers concluded that for obese women who want to undergo IVF treatment, a different type of regimen should be developed. Since IVF treatment is extremely expensive, making sure that the procedure is effective is vital.

"Given the cost of IVF and stress of infertility, it is important to maximize each woman's chances of conceiving a child," Santoro said.

The study, "Evidence of GnRH Antagonist Escape in Obese Women," was published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

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