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No link between birth defects and fertility treatments

3 November 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 333

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, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, did show that pregnancies following assisted conception are at higher risk of complications such as high blood pressure, diabetes and placental problems.

Previous studies have also shown that overall, children conceived by IVF are no more likely to have major health problems than naturally conceived children. There is no evidence to suggest that IVF increases the incidence of major birth defects, cancers or problems in psychological or emotional development. However, some studies have linked IVF to a slightly increased risk of some rare genetic conditions caused by faulty 'genetic imprinting', such as Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome.

In the latest study, the researchers studied the outcomes of 36,062 pregnancies - 1,222 of which involved fertility treatments such as ovulation induction, and a further 554 involving IVF treatment. They found no evidence of an increased risk of low birth weight, birth defects or chromosomal abnormalities in the babies born following assisted conception. 'This is good news', said lead author Tracy Shevell, adding 'the chances of conceiving and having a healthy baby using assisted reproductive technology overall are very high'.

However, the women who had conceived using IVF were six times more likely to develop placenta previa, in which the placenta either partially or completely covers the cervix. They were also 2.7 times more likely to develop pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious complication of pregnancy, and 2.3 times more likely to need caesarean deliveries. Women who had either IVF or ovulation induction were 2.4 times more likely to be affected by placental abruption, a condition in which the placenta comes away from the uterine wall.

It is not known why fertility treatments should be linked to an increased risk of pregnancy complications, but one explanation could be the underlying causes of some forms of infertility. 'It should not be surprising that women who had a medical problem that made it difficult for them to get pregnant also had problems once they became pregnant', said William Gibbons, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. He added that the other complicating factor could be age. 'Women who undergo infertility treatments are often older than most women who become pregnant. Age in and of itself is a risk factor for a more complicated pregnancy', he said.

Assisted Reproduction: No Birth Defect Risk
WebMD |  2 November 2005
Research sheds reassuring light on science's role in births
The San Jose Mercury News |  31 October 2005
4 August 2008 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
The increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at birth observed in babies conceived through assisted reproductive technology (ART) may be the result of parent's underlying infertility problems rather than the technology itself, a new study has revealed. In a report published in The Lancet, researchers found...
16 February 2007 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Contrary to some earlier findings, a large Canadian study links an increase in birth defects with babies born through fertility treatments. According to the results of the study, which was presented at a Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine meeting in San Francisco, the overall risk appears minimal - less...
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...
20 October 2004 - by BioNews 
A panel of fertility experts has analysed medical data on children conceived by in vitro fertilisation (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...
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...
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