IVF (In vitro fertilization) single babies are twice as likely to be still-born, suffer birth defects or die within 28 days, than those conceived naturally, warns a new study. The researchers reached this claim through an analysis of records from more than 300,000 births that took place in Australia between 1986 and 2002. However it is too premature to place all the blame on IVF treatment; the adversities may be because of other reasons such as health problems, or older age that caused couples to be infertile in the first place.
Michael Davies, who led the team of researchers at the University of Adelaide says, "There is in all likelihood a contribution from both the treatment and patient factors. We have very unfriendly work practices that mean families defer child-bearing until women are relatively old, and that is tragic."
AdvertisementAnother point to be considered is that the study period was between 1986 and 2002, i.e. more than a decade old; IVF technology and clinical procedures have advanced a lot since then.
"We need to add more data to see if the improvements in embryology and clinical treatment over the past five to 10 years have flowed through to improve these perinatal outcomes. That is quite plausible, but we do not know."
Preterm birth rates rose from 4.7% in naturally conceived babies to 8% in those born to couples who had IVF. Neonatal deaths rose from 0.3% in naturally conceived babies to 0.5% in IVF children, according to the study.
It is hard to find out how much damage is due to the treatment itself; the parents' health or lifestyles may be important. Women undergoing IVF treatment usually are ones who have already gone through multiple other treatment, no one knows if these 'other treatments' are responsible for the aftermath.
"We know this group of women tend to use a drug called clomiphene citrate for infertility. It's a very common, very cheap drug, but its adverse consequences have not been terribly well studied. We are now extremely keen to investigate this," says Davies.
More clarity is yet to be available; the current claim however points to the 'urgent need' to track the long-term health of babies born through IVF.