People who struggle to have a baby often turn to IVF and this has ended happily for millions of couples around the world. But sometimes multiple IVF attempts fail to result in a pregnancy and sometimes women who achieve pregnancy experience repeated pregnancy loss. When this happens couples may be offered what’s called adjuvant immunotherapies to suppress the immune system on the basis that they might correct immunological imbalances and improve the chance of having a baby. But a recent review of the benefits of adjuvant immunotherapies published by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) did not find good evidence that any of these improve the chance of having a baby. Based on the studies published to date, this is what you should know:
- ASRM recommends against taking aspirin or corticosteroids.
- ASRM concludes that there is insufficient evidence to recommend granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF or GM-CSF), immunoglobulin, fat emulsion, adalimumab, tacrolimus, and maternal immune cells.
In addition to not having any proven benefits, these adjuvants all have potential risks that need to be considered. And of course, they add to the already substantial cost of IVF.
It’s easy to get desperate when IVF treatment keeps failing but it’s important to avoid futile or potentially harmful treatments. Before deciding to try immunotherapies, ask your doctor about the evidence for how they might improve your chance of having a baby and what the cost and possible risks of having them are.
ASRM. (2018). The role of immunotherapy in in vitro fertilization: a guideline. Fertility and Sterility, 110(3), 387-400. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.05.009