Page last updated at 00:44 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 01:44 UK

'No early menopause' through IVF

Embryo transfer
Treatment today involves fewer drugs than it did in the 1980s

IVF does not lead to an early menopause or more severe menopausal symptoms, one of the first studies into the long-term effects of the treatment suggests.

Some 200 women who were among the first to undergo IVF, which in the 1980s involved a much heavier drugs regime, took part in the UK study.

At an average of just over 50, the age at which their menopause started was comparable with the national average.

The Bourn Hall Clinic findings are on Reproductive Bio Medicine Online.

The suggestion that IVF could bring on the menopause early is based on the fear that stimulating the ovaries to generate the eggs required for treatment might speed up their decline.

While doctors have long since dismissed this notion - noting for instance that preventing ovulation through the contraceptive pill does not, by the same logic, delay the menopause - the clinical evidence has been lacking.

Pioneering parents

Researchers at the Bourn Hall Clinic, in Bourn, Cambridgeshire, contacted 700 of its former patients who had been treated between 1981 and 1994.

This is a question patients often ask - and it's very useful to finally have a scientific study to point to which offers them reassurance that IVF will not affect the timing or severity of the menopause
Laurence Shaw
British Fertility Society
Some 199 responded, the majority of whom had given birth to at least one child as a result of the treatment.

The age of menopause closely resembled that of the woman's mother.

In addition, there was no increase in menopausal symptoms with the number of treatments - although the team, which included researchers from Queensland University, Australia, and Cornell University in the US - did not compare the group with non-treated controls.

"It was unknown territory in those days. Although all the studies showed that the treatment was safe, it was ground-breaking and we couldn't predict the potential long-term impacts," said Dr Kay Elder, who led the research at Bourn Hall.

Overall, follicle stimulation "appears to have no lasting impact on the timing or symptoms of the menopause", she added.

"Since many of the women received multiple treatment cycles and large doses of drugs, the current trend towards milder stimulation should have no effect either, which is reassuring for the future."

Laurence Shaw, spokesman for British Fertility Society and medical director of the Bridge Centre, said the findings of the research were not surprising but that it was "nonetheless a very helpful study indeed".

"This is a question patients often ask - and it's very useful to finally have a scientific study to point to which offers them reassurance that IVF will not affect the timing or severity of the menopause."


SEE ALSO
Ovary 'waves' could boost IVF
09 Jul 03 |  Health

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