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Child health after IVF assessed

20 October 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 281

A panel of fertility experts has analysed medical data on children conceived by in IVF, and found that overall, they are no more likely to have major health problems than naturally conceived children. They found no evidence to suggest that IVF increases the incidence of major birth defects, cancers or problems in psychological or emotional development. However, it was found that IVF might have a 'negative impact' on some children during birth. The study also confirmed earlier work linking IVF to a slightly increased risk of some rare genetic conditions. The panel, which reviewed 169 published studies, reported its findings at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

The panel found that twins born after IVF were at no more risk of health problems than twins conceived naturally. But, they said, with singleton IVF babies, there was more likelihood of a premature birth or a clinically low birth weight. It is known that this can sometimes cause health and developmental problems as a child grows up. The panel also found that IVF babies are also twice as likely to die during birth, or soon after. The evidence also suggested that IVF babies are at greater risk of being born with some rare disorders caused by a failure of 'genetic imprinting', such as Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. Some scientists think this may be due to the conditions in which embryos are kept in the laboratory, before being transferred to the womb.

The panel estimated that about one per cent of babies born in the US are conceived using IVF, and while there has always been some concern that IVF might affect aspects of children's health, previous studies examining IVF children have not borne this out. The panel members said they did not know exactly what caused birth problems to occur in some IVF children - it may be the IVF process itself, they said, as it cannot exactly mirror 'normal' fertilisation. But, they said, it is also possible that infertile parents may pass on problems to their children, or infertile mothers may be more likely to have problems during pregnancy. Panel member Marcelle Cedars, from the University of California, San Francisco, said 'I think these women are different'.

The panel's next task is to make recommendations for those working in IVF as to how to find out what causes health problems in IVF children at birth, as well as how to avoid the problems in the future. They advocate larger, longer and more detailed studies of children born from IVF, which might reveal, 'particular groups of parents who are at greater risk of health problems, and who could be given additional testing or support'. In addition, they want research to be conducted on how growth solutions used to nurture embryos in labs might affect children's well-being.

Child health appears unaffected by IVF
New Scientist |  20 October 2004
In vitro fertilization is found safe to children, with exceptions
Philadelphia Inquirer |  20 October 2004
IVF health risks pinpointed
Nature |  20 October 2004
22 June 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Prague (sponsored by Planer cryoTechnology). By Dr Jess Buxton: New research on mouse embryos suggests that laboratory culture conditions can affect the activity of several genes. The findings, presented by US scientists at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology...
3 November 2005 - by BioNews 
Babies conceived using fertility treatments, including IVF, are at no more risk of birth defects than naturally conceived infants, a large US study shows. Researchers at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut looked at data from over 36,000 pregnancies, around five per cent of which arose following fertility treatments. But their findings...
24 June 2005 - by BioNews 
BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Copenhagen: Beckwith-Wiedermann syndrome (BWS) is the only rare genetic 'imprinting' disorder linked to the use of assisted reproduction techniques (ARTs), according to the results of the largest study carried out to date. Researchers at University College in London investigated a possible link between ARTs and...
24 November 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) has published a report highlighting the need for 'improved monitoring and evaluation of assisted reproduction technology (ART)'. Called 'Assisted reproduction: a safe, sound future', the report follows a request from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) asking the MRC to review the evidence...
1 November 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is reported to have said that it wants to begin to monitor the long-term health of children born from IVF and related fertility treatments. In particular, it will focus on the possible effects of ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), a procedure in which...
26 January 2004 - by BioNews 
Babies born following fertility treatment are more likely to be premature and to have a lower birth weight than those conceived naturally, according to a group of Dutch and Australian researchers. Their findings, published in the British Medical Journal, indicate that single IVF babies are more likely to face birth...
12 September 2003 - by BioNews 
British fertility specialist Professor Lord Robert Winston has warned that more research into some fertility techniques associated with IVF needs to take place, in order to ensure the safety of patients and their children. Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science in Salford, Manchester earlier this week, he said...
4 July 2003 - by BioNews 
BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Madrid: Children conceived using in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) techniques are no more likely to be affected by growth and development problems than children conceived naturally, according to a new study presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology...
28 October 2002 - by BioNews 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Medical Research Council (MRC) have confirmed press claims that a working group has been established to conduct a program of research looking at potential long-term health effects of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and related treatments. The working group is chaired by...
28 October 2002 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This week, a fertility story appeared which must have left parents of IVF children quaking in their boots. According to a report in the Independent, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Medical Research Council are to 'launch a study into the potential health problems' of children born...
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