Does IVF Increase the Risk of Birth Defects? By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on January 30, 2014

Does IVF Increase the Risk of Birth Defects?Many people are interested in starting a family of their very own, but various kinds of infertility may make that difficult to achieve. Advances in modern assisted reproduction and fertility care have helped many people have children and experience the joys of parenthood. However, fertility treatment is not without risk. In fact, you may recall news stories in the fall of 2012 that noticed an increased risk of birth defects in children who were born through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The team at our fertility center would like to take a moment right now to consider the idea of birth defects following IVF and what patients should consider about these issues.

About In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Some basics on in virto fertilization (IVF) first. IVF is a process that involves the retrieval of eggs from a woman, the insemination of the eggs in a lab setting, and the transfer of the fertilized embryos into the womb to be carried to term. It is the most popular and well-known fertility treatment in the world.

Does in vitro fertilization (IVF) lead to an increased risk of birth defects?

Research conducted at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital found that babies born through in vitro fertilization (IVF) were 25 percent more likely to experience birth defects than children who were conceived naturally.

What did this research find?

According to the research, the likelihood of birth defects in children born through IVF is roughly 9 percent, while in children conceived naturally, the birth defect rate is around 6.6 percent.

The most common kinds of birth defects involved issues with the eyes, heart, and reproductive organs. While birth defects were more common with IVF treatment, the research also found that artificial insemination, intrauterine insemination, and the use of fertility drugs did not increase chances of birth defects.

Why were birth defects more common through IVF?

As of now, the exact reason for this is unexplained. On a story published on WebMD in October 2012, researcher Lorraine Kelley-Quo said the following: "We don't really understand why IVF raises the risk for birth defects... But we have now seen many studies from all over the world that show this association."

In the same WebMD story, reproductive endocrinologist Nancy Klein suggested that it may be infertility rather than advanced treatments for infertility that may be responsible for the increase in birth defects, yet more research is required.

Keep In Mind: Correlation Is Not Causation and the Risk is Still Relatively Low

We feel that patients interested in assisted reproduction should keep in mind what Dr. Klein mentioned. Correlation does not mean causation since there are many other factors to consider.

Also keep in mind that the risk of birth defects following in vitro fertilization (IVF) is still relatively low, and we take many precautions to ensure the health and viability of the eggs, semen, the mother, and the father. We will also work to ensure the best possible results for the parents and the baby.

Learn More About Fertility Treatment Options

If you would like more information on in vitro fertilization (IVF) and your many other options for addressing female and male infertility, be sure to contact our fertility specialists in Houston an Sugar Land today. Our team will be sure to address all of your concerns so that you can make wise decisions with regard to your overall health, wellness, and goals.

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Dr. Sonja Kristiansen

Houston Fertility Center

Dr. Sonja Kristiansen is the founder and Medical Director of Houston Fertility Center. She is a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist Infertility (REI) specialist who is proud to help hopeful parents fulfill their dreams of having children. Our center is affiliated with the:

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine
  • Texas Medical Association

We provide convenient care for patients from greater Houston and visitors from out of town. For more information about our services, contact our office online or call (713) 225-5375 today.

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