Fertility, pregnancy and gynecological outcomes after fetoscopic surgery for congenital diaphragmatic hernia

Hum Reprod. 2016 Sep;31(9):2024-30. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dew160. Epub 2016 Jul 4.


Study question: What is the impact of fetoscopic surgery for isolated Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) on future reproductive and gynecological outcomes?

Summary answer: We did not observe an increase of obstetric or gynecological problems after fetoscopic surgery nor was there an increased risk for subsequent infertility.

What is known already: The reproductive and gynecological outcomes of patients undergoing open maternal-fetal surgery are known. The most relevant counseling items are the elevated risk for uterine dehiscence and rupture (up to 14%).

Study design, size, duration: Bi-centric study over a 10-year period including 371 women carrying a fetus with isolated CDH either managed expectantly (n = 167) or operated in utero (n = 204).

Participants/materials, setting, methods: Consenting patients filled out a survey with 23 questions (2 open and 21 multiple choice). Questionnaires were custom designed to obtain information on subsequent reproductive or gynecological problems as well as psychological impact.

Main results and the role of chance: The response rate was 40% (147/371). More women in the FETO group attempted a subsequent pregnancy: 70% (62/89) when compared with 47% (27/58) in controls (P = 0.009). This coincided with a longer follow-up in the FETO group (76 versus 59 months; P < 0.001) and a lower survival rate in the index pregnancy (53 versus 72%; P = 0.028). There was no difference in the number of nulliparous or parous women, neither in the conception rate. In total, there were 129 subsequent pregnancies. Nobody reported secondary fertility problems. Four women in the FETO group and one in the control reported a congenital anomaly in a subsequent pregnancy. Twenty-one pregnancies were reported with at least one complication (FETO: 23% (14/60), controls 27% (7/26)). During delivery or in the post-partum period 11 patients reported at least 1 complication (FETO 17% (10/59), controls 4% (1/24)). New onset gynecological problems occurred in 14 participants (10%). None of these events were more likely in one or the other group. Psychological and emotional impacts were frequent in both the FETO (41%) and the control groups (46%) (P = 0.691).

Limitations, reasons for caution: The response rate was 40% (147/371), less than desired. The use of unvalidated self-reported outcomes may skew exact determination of the nature and severity of medical complications. The number of observations for uncommon events was low. The mean follow-up period to detect gynecological complications may be too short.

Wider implications of the findings: This is the first evidence that fetoscopic surgery for CDH does not compromise future reproductive potential or obstetrical outcome when compared with expectant management. A pregnancy complicated by a serious congenital birth defect, such as CDH, frequently has a measurable psychological impact.

Study funding/competing interest: The authors have no conflicts to declare. J.D. receives a fundamental clinical research grant of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen (FWO; 18.01207). A.C.E. is supported by the Erasmus+Program of the European Union (Framework agreement number 2013-0040; contract 1011990). This was presented at the 61st meeting of the Society of Gynaecologic Investigation, in Florence, March 2014 (F-111).

Keywords: congenital diaphragmatic hernia; fertility; fetal endoscopic tracheal occlusion; fetal surgery; gynecological outcome; pregnancy outcome; psychological outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cholestyramine Resin
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Fetoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Hernias, Diaphragmatic, Congenital / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate
  • Self Report
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Cholestyramine Resin