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IVF babies have a small increased risk of mortality

24 February 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1036

Children conceived by assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF, are at a slightly higher risk of dying within the first year of life than children conceived naturally, according to a recent study in Sweden.

For children aged one to 18 years, mortality rate was similar regardless of the method of conception.

'It is important to note that even if we on a group level can see a somewhat increased risk of infant mortality after IVF, the absolute risk for each individual is still very small', said corresponding author of the study Dr Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg, from the Department of Oncology and Pathology at Karolinska Institutet. 'It is also reassuring to know that there is no increased risk of mortality in this group of children beyond the first year of life.'

The researchers analysed patient records for over 2.8 million births in Sweden. Of these, 43,506 children were conceived by assisted reproductive technologies. Within the first year of life, 7,235 died, of whom 114 were conceived as a result of assisted reproduction.

After adjusting for confounding factors such as the mother's age and earlier infertility, the researchers found that the children conceived through assisted reproduction had a 45 percent higher risk of death before one year of age than children conceived naturally. The researchers link this higher rate to increased likelihood of being born prematurely among children conceived by assisted reproductive technologies.

The risk varied depending on which type of assisted reproduction was used, and was highest in the first week after birth. During this first week, children conceived by transfer of a frozen embryo had over double the risk of death than children conceived naturally. However, this was based on a very small sample of only four children born from frozen embryos, and the risk reduced to the same level as children conceived naturally after the first week.

Children conceived via fresh embryo transfer or via intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) did not have an increased mortality rate in the first week compared to naturally conceived children.

'Our results indicate that the kind of assisted reproductive technique used may make a difference, and therefore it is important to further investigate what causes or underlying mechanisms are behind the risks,' said co-author Dr Anastasia Nyman Iliadou from the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institutet. 'They also show the need for extra attention and care of children conceived with IVF, especially during the first week of life.'

29 March 2021 - by BioNews 
This film documents a Progress Educational Trust event about the health of people conceived via IVF...
17 February 2020 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Using fresh donated eggs for IVF leads to slightly better birth outcomes than frozen, according to the largest comparison of fresh and frozen donor eggs for IVF to date...
27 January 2020 - by Annabel Slater 
The legislation surrounding gamete freezing is complicated and difficult to comprehend, even for people with law degrees. The Progress Educational Trust's latest event 'Frozen Fertility: The Challenges of Storing Eggs, Sperm and Embryos', held at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, set out to explore the current state of play...
6 January 2020 - by Dr Valerie Shaikly 
The third session of the Progress Educational Trust (PET) 2019 annual conference, 'Beyond Regulation: Shining a Light on Fertility Treatment', was chaired by Alastair McLellan, the editor of the Health Service Journal...
Comment ( - 27/02/2020)
It would be useful to include the figures as mortality rates - the 45% headline figure looks alarming.

Is it comparing 2 per 1000 for natural conceptions against 2.6 per 1000 for ART conceptions?
Comment ( - 28/02/2020)
Thank you for your comment.

Yes, you’re right the 45 percent headlines were alarming, which is one reason why we decided to cover the story and write a balanced article.

We stated that there was only a slight increase and that the risk remains very small. 

If you were comparing 2 in 1000 for natural conception, it would be 2.9  in 1000 for assisted conception.
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