New Study Supports Theory that IVF Not Likely the Cause of Birth Complications

A recent report by Finnish researchers and based on Finnish birth registries, profiled in the most recent edition of The Lancet, demonstrates that the lighter birth weight and higher prematurity rates observed after assisted reproduction were largely attributable to factors other than the IVF treatments each woman underwent in order to conceive.

The authors studied more than 65,000 registries on babies born between 1995 and 2000, with the goal to investigate neonatal risks associated with in-vitro fertilization (IVF). They performed two separate and different analyses: to distinguish between risks attributable to underlying health problems associated with the need for fertility treatment, and risks directly related to fertility procedures, such as hormonal stimulation, in vitro embryo culture, or cryopreservation.

Of particular interest was the within-family analyses, which compared 620 siblings born following natural conception with 625 siblings born after assisted reproduction. Differences in birth weight and pre-term delivery completely lost relevance when analyses were adjusted for known risk factors of adverse neonatal outcomes, such as smoking, age of the mother at birth, and household income level.

Furthermore, the study echoed the findings of several similar studies that have demonstrated the safety of IVF.

The authors of the study are aware that IVF protocols do vary from country to country and recognize that changes in IVF have occurred over the last 15-20 years but wrote the study in order to stress that assisted reproduction should not be dismissed because of concerns about premature birth or low birth weight. They conclude by stating that cycle outcomes should continue to be monitored in order to provide ongoing safety data as years pass and treatments change.

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