IVF May Be Linked To Birth Defects
October 22, 2012

Birth Defects Linked To Popular Infertility Treatment

[ Watch the Video: In Vitro Fertilization Linked To Birth Defects ]

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

While in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be a blessing for those couples struggling to conceive a child, there may be added risk of birth defects associated with IVF procedures, according to a study from researchers at the University of California.

The researchers said birth defects involving the heart, eyes, reproductive system and urinary system were more likely after IVF, although they were unable to identify a causal mechanism. The new study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal and was presented over the weekend at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

"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," said study author Dr. Lorraine Kelley-Quon, a resident at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

In the study, researchers examined California state-wide data from 2006 to 2007 surrounding 3,463 infants born with major birth defects – among 4,795 infants born after IVF and 46,025 naturally conceived infants. They found that birth defects were more prevalent for infants born after IVF–9 percent versus 6.6 percent for naturally conceived infants. The increased risks were most strongly associated with defects of the heart (5 percent versus 3 percent), the eye (0.3 percent versus 0.2 percent), and the genital/urinary system (1.5 percent versus 1 percent).

The researchers accounted for several factors that could influence the health of a developing fetus, including maternal age, race, the number of times the mother had given birth, infant gender and the year of the child´s birth.

While these results may cast a shadow on IVF procedures, the observers were quick to note that the study may reflect either the procedure or the mother´s role in the increased risks.

"Keep in mind that women with a history of infertility who do not undergo treatment also have a higher rate of pregnancy complications, so it may be something about the infertile population," Dr. Lynn Westphal, who did not work on the study, but is an associate professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the Stanford School of Medicine, told the Huffington Post. "It's difficult to know how much of it is related to the treatment, and how much is related to the group [of women] itself."

Authors of the study asserted that the overall risk of birth defects, no matter which method is used to conceive, is relatively low. They said that the study´s results should be used to help prospective parents make informed decisions.

"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.

Over 1 percent of infants born in the U.S. each year are conceived using some kind of medical assistance. The most common and widely known form is IVF ; however there are other variations including, Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and GIFT (Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer), involving the fertilization takes place in a woman's fallopian tubes. All of these types of medical assisted fertilization were included in the University of California study.