Some Fertility Treatments Linked to Higher Risk of Birth Defects
For couples seeking to overcome infertility by turning to assisted reproductive technology - which can be invasive and expensive - an increased risk of birth defects probably won’t stand in their way. Still, a study released Saturday by the New England Journal of Medicine may give some prospective parents a little something to think about as they mull their options for fertility treatment.
The study is based on data from more than 300,000 births in the state of South Australia (population 1.6 million) between 1986 and 2002, including 6,163 that came about with the help of some form of assisted reproductive technology (ART). When any of the babies was identified as having a birth defect before age 5, doctors made a report to a state registry and the information was included in the analysis.
The researchers found that 8.3% of the children whose conception was helped along by doctors developed a birth defect, compared with 5.8% of the children who were conceived naturally and spontaneously. After adjusting for demographic and other factors that could influence the calculations, the researchers found that using ART was associated with a 28% increased risk of having a baby with a birth defect. The types of defects included “cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, urogenital, and gastrointestinal abnormalities and cerebral palsy,” they reported.