There has always been a worry that fertility treatment may slightly increase the chance of a birth defect.
A new study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggests that the prevalence of birth defects in births conceived with IVF and ICSI may be declining. The research which was performed in Australia, analysed data over a decade and discovered that birth defects reduced over the ten year period.
The study looked at 207,000 births, including 1,328 babies conceived through IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and 633 babies by ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection), from 1994 to 2002.
It is unclear why babies born through ART are slightly more prone to have a birth defect to begin with, but the study shows they are definitely becoming less frequent. Michele Hansen, the lead author of the study, suggested that improvements to laboratory practice, changes to medications and a decrease in the number of embryos transfered may have all had a positive impact on the baby’s health.
While recent studies have suggested that IVF or ICSI is linked with approximately 4% chance of a birth defect, this study shows that the defects are decreasing and will hopefully continue to do so. Natural conception has a slightly lower chance (3%) of birth defect, a difference of only 1% compared to IVF.
There is in fact, a much greater risk of birth defects and miscarriage from parental smoking, alcohol consumption and other lifestyle factors.