In vitro fertilization linked to increase risk for birth defects: study

In vitro fertilization (IVF) may significantly increase the risk of birth defects, particularly those of the eye, heart, reproductive organs and urinary systems, according to new study presented at the ongoing American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference.

In the study, researchers examined infants born in California from 2006-2007 after IVF and other treatments such as fertility- enhancing drugs or artificial insemination. Researchers examined maternal age, race, the number of times the mother had given birth, infant gender, year of birth and presence of major birth defects.

Overall, 3,463 infants with major birth defects were identified among 4,795 infants born after IVF and 46,025 naturally conceived infants with similar maternal demographics. Birth defects were significantly increased for infants born after IVF -- nine percent versus 6.6 percent for naturally conceived infants, even after controlling for maternal factors. Specifically, malformations of the eye (0.3 percent versus 0.2 percent), heart (five percent versus three percent), and genitourinary system (1.5 percent versus one percent) were greater in IVF infants. Overall, an IVF infant's odds of birth defects were 1.25 times greater than that of a naturally conceived infant with similar maternal characteristics. Risk of birth defects after other fertility treatments such as artificial insemination or ovulation induction alone were not significant.

"Our findings included a significant association between the use of assisted reproductive technology, such as certain types of in vitro fertilization, and an increased risk of birth defects," said study author Lorraine Kelley-Quon, a general surgery resident at Ronald Reagan University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center.

The AAP is a professional association of pediatricians in the United States. Its 2012 national conference will be held on Oct. 20-23 in New Orleans.