Getting pregnant with congenital adrenal hyperplasia: Assisted reproduction and pregnancy complications. A systematic review and meta-analysis

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022 Aug 31:13:982953. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2022.982953. eCollection 2022.


Many patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) refrain from seeking pregnancy, suffer from infertility or worry about pregnancy complications, mainly due to genitalia abnormalities, anovulation, unreceptive endometrium and metabolic disturbances. Despite those challenges, many live births have been reported. In this systematic review, we focused on the key to successful assisted reproduction strategies and the potential pregnancy complications. We did a systematic literature search of Pubmed, Medline and Scopus for articles reporting successful pregnancies in CAH other than 21-hydroxylase deficiency, and found 25 studies reporting 39 pregnancies covering deficiency in steroidogenic acute regulatory protein, 17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase, 11β-hydroxylase, P450 oxidoreductase, cytochrome b5 and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. We summarized various clinical manifestations and tailored reproduction strategy for each subtype. Furthermore, a meta-analysis was performed to evaluate the pregnancy complications of CAH patients. A total of 19 cross-sectional or cohort studies involving 1311 pregnancies of classic and non-classic CAH patients were included. Surprisingly, as high as 5.5% (95% CI 2.3%-9.7%) of pregnancies were electively aborted, and the risk was significantly higher in those studies with a larger proportion of classic CAH than those with only non-classical patients (8.43% (4.1%-13.81%) VS 3.75%(1.2%-7.49%)), which called for better family planning. Pooled incidence of miscarriage was 18.2% (13.4%-23.4%) with a relative risk (RR) of 1.86 (1.27-2.72) compared to control. Glucocorticoid treatment in non-classical CAH patients significantly lowered the miscarriage rate when compared to the untreated group (RR 0.25 (0.13-0.47)). CAH patients were also more susceptible to gestational diabetes mellitus, with a prevalence of 7.3% (2.4%-14.1%) and a RR 2.57 (1.29-5.12). However, risks of preeclampsia, preterm birth and small for gestational age were not significantly different. 67.8% (50.8%-86.9%) CAH patients underwent Cesarean delivery, 3.86 (1.66-8.97) times the risk of the control group. These results showed that fertility is possible for CAH patients but special care was necessary when planning, seeking and during pregnancy.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO, CRD42022342642.

Keywords: abortion (induced); assisted reproduction technology (ART); congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH); glucocorticoid therapy; meta-analysis; miscarriage; pregnancy complication; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous* / epidemiology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous* / etiology
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital* / complications
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital* / epidemiology
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital* / therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cytochromes b5
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / epidemiology
  • Premature Birth*
  • Reproduction
  • Steroid 17-alpha-Hydroxylase


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Cytochromes b5
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Steroid 17-alpha-Hydroxylase