You may have heard about a brand-new study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine that babies born from a cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) are at higher risk of some birth defects. The country's leading professional organization related to fertility issues, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) issued a release today (May 5, 2012), written by the ASRM's president, Linda Giudice, M.D., Ph.D., to help consumers understand this research better:
“This study confirms what has been known for quite some time: Patients who need medical assistance to conceive have a somewhat higher risk of having children with birth defects than parents able to conceive on their own. Patients considering medically assisted conception have been, and should continue to be, counseled on those risks prior to undergoing any treatment.”
Put another way, this new study doesn't tell us anything we don't already know about the risks of IVF, and shouldn't be seen as showing an even greater risk of birth defects than was previously thought.
In addition, the president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), Glenn Schattman, M.D., commented on the study by saying that: “It is important to note that women with a history of infertility who did not undergo ART treatments also had a higher increase of having children with birth defects. This combined with the finding that those using ICSI (Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) also had slightly elevated risks of birth defects suggest that the underlying problem that led them to seek medical assistance in the first place is likely contributing to the elevated risk of birth defects in their children. Some results in this study are reassuring for patients: In cycles not including ICSI, the adjusted odds ratio for IVF conceived children did NOT show a significant difference in birth defects and children born following embryo freezing had no higher risk of birth defects than naturally conceived children. These are interesting and important findings and we will need much more research to allow us to help patients overcome their infertility with treatments that are as safe as possible for them and the children born from the treatments.”