When it comes to in vitro fertilization (IVF) there are potential risks: ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, stress and, now, birth defects, but for some families, the fertility procedure may be their only hope for conception.
This past weekend, researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition reported that IVF may increase birth defect risk, especially in the heart, eyes, reproductive organs and urinary systems.
The study, conducted by scientists from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), analyzed birth defects among infants conceived both via IVF and naturally in California. The group included 4,795 IVF babies and 46,025 naturally conceived babies. After controlling for other factors that can cause birth defects, such as mother's age and race, the scientist found that 9 percent of the IVF-born infants had defects compared to 6.6 percent of babies who were conceived naturally.
The scientists, however, didn't discover why the treatment can lead to birth defects. Some say it could be linked to the cause of infertility, but they have yet to find a solid reason.
Dr. Lorraine Kelley-Quon, the study's lead scientist and a general surgery resident at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, says that this information isn't meant to scare potential IVF patients. Rather, it is meant to inform them.
“For parents considering in vitro fertilization or other forms of assisted reproductive technology, it is important that they understand and discuss with their doctor the potential risks of the procedure before making a decision,” Kelley-Quon says.
And for some who long for a child, the reward may outweigh the risk.
Would the IVF risks prevent you from having the procedure?