A new study from researchers at Nanjing Medical University reveals that there is a significantly higher incidence of birth defects among children conceived using IVF or ICSI. Zhibin Hu and colleagues reviewed 46 different studies that included 124,000 children born using IVF or ICSI and concluded that the risk of birth defects among children conceived with certain artificial reproductive technologies was 37% higher than those conceived traditionally.
The study, published in the journal Fertilty and Sterility, showed that there was no one type of congenital defect that dominated the study, with a range of problems across multiple body systems showing up. The review did not posit a reason for the increase, although some rationales have been suggested:
The question of why most studies find birth defects to be more common among IVF-conceived babies, though, remains to be answered.
It’s possible that the same reasons people have trouble conceiving and seek out fertility treatment could influence their increased risk of having a baby with a birth defect.
It’s also possible that the IVF techniques themselves, the jostling and handling of the embryos, or the drugs that go along with fertility treatment, could be involved.
I expect this study will not deter prospective parents from seeking remedies to infertility. Hopefully, it will be a jumping off point for further research into infertility, congenital birth defects and solutions to both issues.
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