Blog Post

New Study Links In Vitro Fertilization and Birth Defects

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer The CDC has released a new study showing that infants conceived with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) are two to four times more likely to have certain types of birth defects than children who were conceived naturally. The report, entitled, "Assisted Reproductive Technology and Major Structural Birth Defects, United States," was published in the journal Human Reproduction and involved data from 281 births conceived with ART and 14,095 conceived without infertility treatments. Researchers found that among pregnancies resulting in a single birth, ART (which includes all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are handled, such as in vitro fertilization) was associated with twice the risk of some types of heart defects, more than twice the risk of cleft lip with or without cleft palate and over four times the risk of certain gastrointestinal defects compared with babies conceived without fertility treatments. "Today, more than 1 percent of infants are conceived through ART and this number may continue to increase," says Jennita Reefhuis, Ph.D., epidemiologist at CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “While the risk is low, it is still important for parents who are considering using ART to think about all of the potential risks and benefits of this technology.” While ART didn't significantly increase the risk of birth defects in multiple births, researchers say it may  have  an indirect impact because it increases the likelihood of twins, which is a risk factor for many types of birth defects.  As a result, they are calling for further study to determine ART-related risk for defects in pregnancies with multiple births. This is only one of many studies linking ART with birth defects.   For example, a recent study from Finland found an increased risk of birth defects in babies conceived from IVF to be 4.3 percent compared to the general population rate of only 2.9 percent. Babies conceived by methods of ART other than IVF also have a higher than normal rate of birth defects of 3.7 percent. Another study from the University of Iowa found an increased risk of about 30 percent in the incidence of birth defects in babies from IVF. Some experts also believe that IVF is associated Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome (BWS) which is characterized by pre- and/or post-natal overgrowth, macroglossia (large tongue) and anterior abdominal wall defects. In addition, about 7 percent of BWS children develop a tumor, most commonly Wilms' tumor. The incidence of BWS in the general population is estimated at 7.2 cases per 100,000 births. Some estimates suggest that IVF increases the risk 3-4 fold or 21.6-28.8 cases per 100,000 births. Various methods of ART have been used in the United States since 1981. In 2002, almost 12 percent of U.S. women ages 15 to 44 reported using infertility services. In 2005, more than 134,000 ART procedures were performed in the United States, resulting in the birth of about 52,000 babies, the CDC said © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.