IVF Babies at Risk

Double or Triple

United States researchers have announced that babies conceived during the course of in vitro fertilization are 2-4 times more likely to be born with certain types of birth defects than are those babies conceived without assisted reproductive techniques. It seems that in vitro fertilization babies have double or triple the chance of being born with cardiac disease resulting from holes in the heart. This is according to the research team from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led by Jennita Reefhuis, an epidemiologist.

But that's not all. There's more bad news. Babies conceived through the help of in vitro fertilization have double the risk of being born with a cleft lip, as well as certain gastrointestinal birth defects, say the researchers. The unfortunate results of this study were written up in the journal Human Reproduction.

Cause Unclear

Researchers mitigate this awful news by letting us know that such defects are still rare in in vitro fertilization babies. The exact cause of the increased risk for birth defects is still not clear, according to the CDC researchers. The process of in vitro fertilization involves the combining of egg and sperm cells in a laboratory dish. When the mix results in an embryo, it is transferred into the woman's uterus.

Reefhuis feels that it's important that the results of this study be disseminated so that those couples considering in vitro fertilization can be aware of both the pros and the cons of this fertility treatment. Until now, said Reefhuis, the only known drawbacks to this procedure were the higher risk of multiple pregnancies and births, both of which have their own attendant risks, such as birth defects or developmental issues. Now that it is known that there is an overall increased risk for birth defects as separate from the issue of multiple pregnancy, couples need to reconsider their choices.

Many couples who have trouble conceiving a child decide to try in vitro fertilization with the result that some 50,000 such infants are born every year in the United States.  A total 1% of all United States infants are conceived using in vitro fertilization techniques every year, said the research team.

The study concentrated on 281 infants conceived through the use of in vitro fertilization or another technique which is less common, and is known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and compared this group to 14,095 infants conceived without fertility treatments. All the babies were from single as opposed to multiple births, since the latter is a subset already known to be at increased risk for birth defects.

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