Malformations in IVF Births are a “Public Health Issue” According to French Scientists

by jeeg 14. June 2010 20:42

Children conceived through the use of in vitro fertilization are more likely to be born with congenital malformations, according to French scientists. A report released on Sunday to the European Society of Human Genetics urges doctors to inform their patients of the risks associated with assisted reproduction technologies.

The study was headed by Dr. Geraldine Viot, a clinical geneticist at the Maternite Port Royal hospital, Paris, France. Dr. Viot looked at the births of more than 15,000 children who were conceived at 33 major fertility centers across France. The study found that more than 4% of these children were born with some sort of major congenital malformation. This number is higher than the general population risk of 2–3%, a statistically significant difference. While previous studies have reported malformation rates from IVF as high as 11%, Dr. Viot counters: "Given that our study is the largest to date, we think that our data are more likely to be statistically representative of the true picture.”

Some serious malformations found to be more prevalent in IVF babies included heart disease and urogenital abnormalities. Minor malformations included agiomas – benign tumors made of small blood vessels on or near the skin – which were five times more common in artificially conceived children. The study also found the baby’s gender to be important, documenting a higher rate of serious malformations in boys and a higher rate of minor defects in girls.

The French team claims that IVF births must be studied further in order to pinpoint the exact cause of the malformations. While the age of the parents did not correspond to an increased risk, it remains unclear whether the problem comes from parental infertility or the IVF procedure itself. Finer-tuned studies might reveal which parts of the IVF procedure are more critical for embryonic development, helping doctors to improve protocol and reduce the risk. "We need more research in order to understand the relationship between embryo culture media, timing of embryo transfer, the effects of ovarian stimulation, the use of ICSI, where sperm is injected directly into the egg, freezing of gametes and embryos and these disorders," said Dr Viot.

Nevertheless, the French researchers cite birth malformations as a “public health issue” that physicians and policymakers must address. "It is important that all doctors and also politicians are informed about this. We also need to follow up all children born after ART and to put much more effort into trying to understand which of the procedures involved is implicated in this problem," said Viot.


Magdalina Gugucheva



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