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IVF slightly increases risk of adverse outcomes for mother and baby, report says

11 June 2012

By James Brooks

Appeared in BioNews 660

Use of assisted reproductive technologies like IVF carry with them an increased risk of complications for mother and child, a report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) highlights.

These risks are partially, though not wholly, attributable to the fact that multiple births are more common in IVF. In the UK, one in four IVF pregnancies result in multiple births due to the common practice of implanting two or three embryos during treatment.

Multiple pregnancy is a risk factor for premature birth but RCOG's scientific committee found that there is an additional 23 percent increase in the chances of premature birth in IVF twins. For single births, children conceived using IVF are twice as likely to be born prematurely than those conceived naturally. Singletons conceived via IVF were also more likely to be of low birth weight.

'The poor birth outcomes and complications may be a combination of treatment and underlying features of the couple such as older maternal age', said Professor Jenny Kurinczuk, director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University. 'However, treatment strategies can be altered to improve outcomes such as the adoption of elective single embryo transfer'.

The report also reviewed data on congenital anomalies, which affect between three and five percent of infants. It found that children conceived with IVF were more likely to be affected but that the absolute risk remained low. The increased risk here was at least partly explained by underlying infertility.

Professor Kurinczuk stressed that 'the majority of the children born following IVF will have a good outcome just like any other children'.

The report goes on to note that IVF does not appear to be associated with any risks for children later in life. No influence on brain, language or behavioural development could be detected.

The paper also looks at egg donation and notes an increased risk of related early pregnancy and birth complications here, in particular pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure). The authors remark that there is a paucity of information on the long-term outcomes of egg donation.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists | 07 June 2012
BBC News | 06 June 2012
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists | 06 June 2012


27 November 2017 - by Georgia Everett 
Children conceived using assisted reproductive techniques have a greater risk of congenital heart defects compared with children born through spontaneous conception, according to research...
26 January 2015 - by Purvi Shah 
A study has shown a decline in the rates of stillbirths and premature deliveries of babies conceived via assisted reproductive technology in four Nordic countries....
02 September 2013 - by Daniel Malynn 
This episode of the BBC's 'The Midwives' documented some of the varying difficulties experienced by older and younger mothers...
13 May 2013 - by Dr Katie Howe 
The transfer of one pre-screened embryo during IVF leads to birth rates equivalent to transferring two unscreened embryos, indicates new research from the USA....

21 May 2012 - by Dr Greg Ball 
A senior IVF doctor has voiced concerns over health risks to women in IVF treatments that are commonly practiced by UK clinics...
30 April 2012 - by Dr Daniel Grimes 
French researchers have reported an association between drugs given to mothers undergoing fertility treatment and an increased risk of leukaemia in their children...
31 January 2011 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
Deaths related to IVF treatment should be better reported to stop them increasing, say the authors of a British Medical Journal (BMJ) editorial. The editorial argues IVF may be riskier than unassisted pregnancy or abortion, although deaths related to IVF remain rare...
23 March 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the government's fertility watchdog, is updating its guidelines to recommend that doctors make couples aware of the potential risks to children conceived by IVF. The decision follows the publication of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and...

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