Birth defects more likely in IVF children

Children conceived using assisted reproductive technology (ART) are far more likely to have birth defects, according to an article in Human Reproduction Update. The paper, authored by academics from the UK and Australia, is a compilation of 82 studies done into ART infants between 1995 to 2012.

After analysing the data of these studies, the authors concluded that that ART infants are 32% more likely to have birth defects than children conceived naturally. The figure jumps to 42% when considering only major birth defects, and 36% when considering only singletons. The authors speculated about possible explanations:

“Factors associated with treatment that may increase the risk of birth defects include the underlying causes of infertility; and aspects of the ART procedures themselves such as the medications used, culture media composition, length of time in culture, freezing and thawing of embryos, altered hormonal environment at the time of implantation, the manipulation of gametes and embryos or a combination of these.”  

The authors believe there is a need for studies that differentiate between subfertile women who have nevertheless managed to conceive naturally, and infertile women who had recourse to ART. This will help identify the role of underlying physiological conditions in increasing the likelihood of congenital abnormalities. 

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