The study compared 77 women who had given birth following IVF treatment using donated eggs between 1998 and 2005 with 81 women who had become pregnant through IVF treatment but using their own eggs. The results indicated that only five percent of women who used their own eggs during IVF treatment developed pre-eclampsia, compared with almost 17 percent of women using donor eggs.
'The results of this study should not be alarming or frightening', said Dr Peter Klatsky, the lead author of the paper from the Women and Infants Hospital in Providence in Rhode Island, United States. The findings may help doctors understand what causes pre-eclampsia and how to counsel patients who may be at risk. 'This is exciting because it sheds new light on to a potential cause of this common disease', Dr Klatsky said.
Pre-eclampsia is a common medical condition that affects between 2-8 percent of women during pregnancy and is associated with high blood pressure, increased protein in the urine and other symptoms. The cause is not fully understood but it is thought to be linked to problems with the placenta. The incidence remains the same for natural pregnancies and those following IVF treatment where the patient's own eggs were used.
Previous studies have indicated that women who use donor sperm and those who get pregnant with a new partner have higher rates of pre-eclampsia than other women, suggesting the condition could be related to an immune response against cells the body sees as foreign. Dr Klatsky's study tested to see if the pattern held true for eggs the body did not recognise.
Dr Sacha Krieg, assistant professor specialising in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the Kansas University Medical Centre, agreed doctors should counsel patients at increased risk for pre-eclampsia and monitor them more closely during pregnancy but cautioned against trying to draw too much of a conclusion from a small study.