Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics

, Volume 298, Issue 2, pp 329–336 | Cite as

Foetal thymus size in pregnancies after assisted reproductive technologies

  • Teresa Gabriele NauEmail author
  • Kathrin Oelmeier de Murcia
  • Mareike Möllers
  • Janina Braun
  • Roxanna E. Abhari
  • Johannes Steinhard
  • Matthias Borowski
  • Walter Klockenbusch
  • Ralf Schmitz
Maternal-Fetal Medicine



The aim of our study was to compare thymus sizes in foetuses conceived using assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to those conceived naturally (control group).


Sonographic foetal thymus size was assessed retrospectively in 162 pregnancies conceived using ART and in 774 pregnancies conceived naturally. The anteroposterior thymic and the intrathoracic mediastinal diameter were measured to calculate the thymic–thoracic ratio (TT-ratio). The ART cases were subdivided into two groups: (1) intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI; n = 109) and (2) in vitro fertilisation (IVF; n = 53).


The TT-ratio was smaller in pregnancies conceived using ART (p < 0.001). In both ART subgroups (ICSI and IVF), the TT-ratio was lower compared to the control group (p < 0.001). However, no difference between the two subgroups could be detected (p = 0.203).


Our data show reduced thymus size in foetuses conceived using ART compared to controls. These findings indicate that the use of ART may lead to certain deviations in organogenesis.


In vitro fertilisation Intracytoplasmic sperm injection Ultrasound Thymus Foetal diagnosis Prenatal ultrasonography Pregnancy 



We thank everyone who voluntarily dedicated their time and effort.

Author contribution

TGN: data collection, data management, data analysis and manuscript writing. KOM: data collection and manuscript editing. MM: data collection and manuscript editing. JB: data collection and manuscript editing. REA: manuscript editing. JS: data collection and manuscript editing. WK: data collection and manuscript editing. MB: statistics and manuscript editing. RS: project construction, data collection and manuscript revision.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Our study was planned in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The institutional review board approved this study and required neither patient approval nor informed consent for our retrospective analysis of data that were obtained using a standard of care clinical protocol.

Human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresa Gabriele Nau
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kathrin Oelmeier de Murcia
    • 1
  • Mareike Möllers
    • 1
  • Janina Braun
    • 1
  • Roxanna E. Abhari
    • 2
  • Johannes Steinhard
    • 3
  • Matthias Borowski
    • 4
  • Walter Klockenbusch
    • 1
  • Ralf Schmitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Gynecology and ObstetricsUniversity Hospital MünsterMünsterGermany
  2. 2.Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal SciencesUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.Department of Fetal CardiologyHeart and Diabetes Center North Rhine-WestphaliaBad OeynhausenGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Biostatistics and Clinical ResearchUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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