Study: Fertility Treatments May Raise Birth Defect Risk

Australian researchers looked at medical records nearly 300,000 babies born in Australia -- more than 4,000 of whom were conceived through an assisted fertility method -- to see if babies born using the various assisting methods were more likely to have birth defects than babies who were conceived naturally.

Eight percent of the babies conceived through assistance were born with birth defects such as heart, genital, kidney, lung and muscle problems, compared to nearly 6 percent of babies who were conceived naturally, the study found. Those conceived through fertility assistance were also more likely to have cerebral palsy.

The study found that the most elevated risk was in patients who had a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), in which a single sperm is injected into an egg.  In vitro fertilization (IVF) patients did not appear to have an elevated risk.

"The fact that the patient has had a problem getting pregnant only slightly increases the risk to having a healthy pregnancy, but going through IVF isn't going to raise that risk any further," Dr. James Goldfarb, director of the Fertility Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland told ABC.

Image: Embryology lab, via Shutterstock.

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