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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 06:42 GMT 07:42 UK
'Unnecessary' treatment risk to families
Midwife at work
Many couples may not need fertility treatment
A leading fertility expert has urged couples to think twice before rushing into clinics to demand treatment.

Many are not giving natural conception long enough - and do not realise the real risks of complications associated with IVF and ICSI.

Couples are inclined to think that if pregnancy has not occurred within this magic period they are infertile and need immediate treatment

Dr Egbert te Velde, Utrecht Medical Centre
Dr Egbert te Velde, head of the department of reproductive medicine at the Utrecht Medical Centre, also said that some clinicians were influenced by money and did not take time to explain the pitfalls of fertility treatments fully.

Some couples who approach clinics have only been trying to conceive naturally for a few months, he said, pointing out that being unsuccessful for well over a year is not unusual.

He said: "Couples are inclined to think that if pregnancy has not occurred within this magic period they are infertile and need immediate treatment."

In fact, recent studies show that "couple fertility" - the combined fertility of men and women, is actually improving, despite worries about the effects of pollution and stressful lifestyles.

"The trouble is that we have no patience any more for children, but we have to consider waiting," said Dr te Velde.

Explain the risks

He said that while most doctors had the best interests of their patients at heart, many were not either fully explaining the risks involved in IVF, or telling them they had not tried unsuccessfully for long enough to merit treatment.

He said: "Money is a factor, but many doctors are uninclined to tell them everything."

The risks of fertility treatment are not well publicised - in fact, the drugs used can cause ovarian hyperstimulation, which is life-threatening in as many as 2% of patients.

In addition, there is a much higher risk of multiple pregnancy, which is strongly associated with higher mortality for both mother and baby, and can lead to low birth weight babies, who face their own struggle for health in the long term.

The process of fertility treatment can also be a source of great emotional stress for both prospective parents.

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