IVF increases risk of major birth defects

Women who use assisted reproductive technology (ART) to conceive may be more likely to have babies born with major birth defects. So say the researchers of a retrospective study presented in October at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

After adjusting for potential confounders, including maternal age, the babies born to mothers who used ART showed greater likelihood of having a major birth defect than those whose mothers conceived naturally, with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.25 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.12-1.39].

Of greatest significance, ART was associated with an 81% increase in the relative risk (RR) of eye defects, a 41% increase in RR for congenital heart defects, and a 40% increase in RR for genitourinary system defects.

Researchers reviewed data from California, the state with the highest number of infants born after ART, and analyzed information from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development Maternal/Infant dataset for 2006 to 2007.

The analyses included 1 for babies born after ART, including in vitro fertilization and gamete intrafallopian transfer, and another for those born following use of other fertility-related services, such as ovulation induction, fertility-enhancing drugs, artificial insemination, or intrauterine insemination.

The analysis of outcomes in 4795 babies born following ART and 46,025 matched controls showed a significantly higher overall rate of major congenital malformations in the ART group (9% vs 6.6%, P<0.001.).

In another analysis that separated singletons and multiples, the likelihood of birth defects was high for multiples only following ART (OR 1.35, 95% CI, 118-1.54).