May 6, 2012

Link Between ICSI Fertility Procedure, Birth Defects Discovered

Fertility injections used to help overcome male reproductive issues could increase the risks of birth defects in the children they sire, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has discovered.

The study, which was led by researchers at the University of Adelaide's Robson Institute, examined a total of 308,000 South Australian births over an 18-year period, and discovered that children born as a result of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) were more likely to have birth defects than traditionally-birthed children, Telegraph Health Correspondent Laura Donnelly reported on Saturday.
ICSI, a procedure which involved a single sperm is injected directly into an egg, is typically used when prospective fathers suffer from low sperm counts or motility problems.

Donnelly said that the researchers were not able to determine whether or not the method, which is currently used in nearly half of all UK-based fertility treatments, is dangerous by itself or because males suffering from these types of reproductive problems are simply more likely to "pass on genetic anomalies" to their offspring.

No similar link to birth defects and In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was discovered.

"The study found the unadjusted risk of a birth defect was 5.8 per cent following natural conception, compared with 7.2 per cent for those following IVF, and 9.9 per cent for those after ICSI," Donnelly wrote. "While there was no significant difference in the risk between IVF and natural conception, once other factors were taken into account, the risks to those born following ICSI remained significantly higher."

"A history of infertility, either with or without assisted conception, was significantly associated with birth defects," lead author Michael Davies, an associate professor with the University of Adelaide, told the Telegraph. "While factors associated with the causes of infertility explained the excess risk associated with IVF, the increased risk for a number of other treatments could not readily be explained by patient factors."


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