Treatment to limit growth of tall girls may affect fertility

February 24, 2011

Tall girls who received estrogen to limit their growth may have more difficulty becoming pregnant as adults than women who did not receive the hormone treatment, Dutch researchers report.

Tall girls who received estrogen to limit their growth may have more difficulty becoming pregnant as adults than women who did not receive the hormone treatment, Dutch researchers report.

For the study, only the second of its kind, researchers from Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, recruited 239 women who, as adolescents between 1968 and 1998, had been given high doses of estrogen to limit their growth and another group of untreated tall women. The women completed questionnaires about their efforts to conceive and whether they had needed fertility treatment.

Of the women treated with estrogen, 82% who tried to conceive succeeded, compared with 95% of untreated women. Estrogen-treated women took longer to get pregnant-50% conceived in less than 1 year of trying, compared with 79% of untreated women-and were more likely to be treated for infertility. Seventy-one percent of treated women gave birth to a live baby, compared with 90% of untreated women.

Ovarian function tests performed on women in the study groups revealed that women treated with estrogen were almost 3 times as likely as untreated women to show signs of impending ovary failure, based on hormone levels. Researchers speculate that this finding may help explain why treated women had more difficulty conceiving.

Estrogen treatment to limit the growth of girls who are much taller than their peers was popular in the United States, Europe, and Australia starting in the 1950s. It has been used more widely in Europe than in the US.

The study was published online February 2 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.