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Women undergoing IVF face multiple health risks

A study carried out in the Netherlands shows that nurses feel “awkward” approaching issues such as smoking cessation and weight loss with women undergoing IVF.

The research, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing showed an overwhelming 96% of women attending a preconception clinic before beginning the process of IVF were found to have three or more lifestyle problems and risk factors.

Such risks included: bacterial and parasitic infections, alcohol use, smoking, obesity and using medication without a prescription.

Scientists at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, The Netherlands, studied the results of questionnaires developed by the Erasmus Medical Centre and completed by 101 women, together with the seven nurses who advised them.

They found 30% of women preparing to undergo IVF refused to quit smoking and 16% of obese women did not make any effort to lose weight.

However, half of the obese women studied did go on to lose weight and nearly a third of smokers decided to kick the habit upon receiving advise from nurses at the preconception clinic.

Less than half of the nurses (42%) said they were “satisfied” they had the sufficient knowledge and skills to counsel women with obesity, with many feeling “awkward” at raising the subject among women “already facing the stress of IVF”.

Despite this, 96% of women attending the preconception clinic were “satisfied” with the verbal information provided by nurses.

“The results of our study show preconception care was well received by the patients and that it motivated some women to lose weight and quit smoking,” said Henrietta Ockhuijsen, a nurse researcher at the Department of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecology at the University Medical Centre.

“We feel that such care should be incorporated into IVF programmes and that nurses could play a key role in running special clinics, as long as they were provided with additional education and clear protocols.”