A study by researchers at the University of Iowa shows a slight increase in birth defects for babies conceived using an artificial process than those conceived naturally. Doctor Brad Van Voorhis says babies born to a mother who used in-vitro-fertilization (I-V-F) showed a small increase in heart or muscle and skeletal defects.
He says it took a very large study to find a difference, “We found risk in I-V-F conceived children of six-point-two percent versus a four-point-four percent for naturally conceived children. So, although this reached statistical significance, the increase was small.” Van Voorhis says the increase shouldn’t cause immediate alarm. He says, “Overall I guess I would be reassuring to potential patients that most babies born through I-V-F procedures do very well.”
Van Voorhis says the study did confirm results of I-V-F studies in Europe and Australia. He says they also looked at children born after artificial insemination. Van Voorhis says they did find a slight increase in birth defects after that process as well, but he says the sample of babies was very small. He says that didn’t reach statistical significance, but says it’s “interesting” to see a trend toward a higher slight increase those children as well. He says, “So it leaves open the question is this due to the I-V-F procedure, or are parents who’re infertile perhaps at slight increased risk for birth defects regardless of how the child is conceived.”
Van Voorhis says it shows a need to keep studying the issue. He says it will take a much larger effort than what can be mounted at one center. He says they need to keep up the scrutiny of the procedures and look at the outcomes. Even with the call for more scrutiny — Dr. Voorhis adds this caution, “Again I would stress that a majority of babies do very well and we still regard I-V-F as an excellent treatment for infertile couples. Most have a very positive outcome, those who conceive.”
But he says we do need to keep track of the issue and he says it’ll take a more national approach. The U-of-I study was based on births in Iowa from 1989 to 2002. Voorhis says nearly one percent of all babies born in the U.S. are conceived through I-V-F.