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Why Doctors Are So Worried About Birth Complications for IVF Babies

ByKylie McConville
Updated
March 2, 2017
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Image: Elizabeth Messina / The Bump

New research released by the University of Adelaide found that the risk of serious complications at birth (such as stillbirth, preterm delivery, low birth weight and neonatal death) are twice as likely for babies conceived through assisted reproductive methods (like IVF and ICSI).

For the study, researchers in Australia compared the outcomes of more than 300,000 births is South Australia over a 17-year period, including more than 4,300 assisted reproduction births. They compared adverse birth events related to all forms of available treatments (like IVF, ICSI, ovulation induction and cryopreservation of embryos) and found that couples who used assisted reproduction were more than twice as likely to deliver preterm, have a stillborn baby, almost three times as likely have a very low birth weight baby and twice as likely to deliver a child that passes away 28 days after birth.

Professor Michael Davies, lead researchers on the project from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute, said, “These outcomes varied depending on the type of assisted conception used. Very low and low birth weight, very preterm and preterm birth, and neonatal death were markedly more common in births from IVF and, to a lesser degree, in births from ICSI. Using frozen embryos eliminated all significant adverse outcomes associated with ICSI but not with IVF. However, frozen embryos were also associated with increased risk of macrosomia (big baby syndrome) for IVF and ICSI babies.”

Davies added that the study confirms what researchers in Europe and other parts of Australia have found: A growing relationship between infertility treatments and adverse outcomes for newborns.

He said, “More research is now urgently needed into longer term follow-up of those who have experienced comprehensive perinatal disadvantage. Our studies also need to be expanded to include more recent years of treatment, as the technology has been undergoing continual innovation, which may influence the associated risks.”

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