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IVF linked to increase in risk of birth defects


In vitro fertilization may significantly increase the risk of birth defects, particularly those of the eye, heart, reproductive organs and urinary systems, according to a study.

Despite increasing use of IVF in the United States, associations between birth defects and IVF are poorly understood, researchers reported in background information for the study. Meanwhile, management of birth defects comprises a large part of pediatric surgical care and demands significant healthcare resources.

Researchers examined infants born after IVF and other treatments such as fertility-enhancing drugs or artificial insemination in 2006-07 in California, which has the highest rate of IVF usage in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers examined maternal age, race, the number of times the mother had given birth, infant gender, year of birth and presence of major birth defects.

“Our findings included a significant association between the use of assisted reproductive technology, such as certain types of in vitro fertilization, and an increased risk of birth defects,” Lorraine Kelley-Quon, MD, a study author and general surgery resident at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said in a news release.

Overall, 3,463 infants with major birth defects were identified among 4,795 infants born after IVF and 46,025 naturally conceived infants with similar maternal demographics. Birth defects were significantly increased for infants born after IVF — 9% versus 6.6% for naturally conceived infants, even after controlling for maternal factors.

Specifically, malformations of the eye (0.3% vs. 0.2%), heart (5% vs. 3%, and genitourinary system (1.5% vs. 1%) were greater in IVF infants. Overall, an IVF infant’s odds of birth defects were 1.25 times greater than that of a naturally conceived infant with similar maternal characteristics. Risk of birth defects after other fertility treatments, such as artificial insemination or ovulation induction alone, were not significant.

“For parents considering in vitro fertilization or other forms of assisted reproductive technology, it is important that they understand and discuss with their doctor the potential risks of the procedure before making a decision,” said Kelley-Quon, who conducted the research at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

The abstract, “Congenital Malformations Associated With Assisted Reproductive Technology: a California Statewide Analysis,” was presented Oct. 20 at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ national conference and exhibition in New Orleans.


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