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IVF, ICSI Babies as Healthy as Others

Children Conceived With Infertility Treatments Just as Healthy in the Long Run

Infertile Couples Are Different continued...

"But most important is that the men we have treated with this ICSI procedure are men with extremely low sperm counts," says Kaplan.

"The reason they might have low sperm counts is that they might have some chromosomal abnormality themselves, so you're really just transmitting into their progeny the problem that the husband has rather than the procedure itself causing the problem."

Jamie Grifo, MD, PHD, director of the division of reproductive medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, says it's also hard to study differences between babies conceived with infertility treatments and others.

"IVF babies are looked at and scrutinized much more carefully than naturally conceived babies," says Grifo. He says just the process of looking harder at babies conceived though assisted fertility techniques can reveal problems that might otherwise be ignored in the general population.

Results 'Reassuring'

Although it's impossible to say IVF and ICSI are without risk because they're relatively new procedures, Both Kaplan and Grifo say the results of this and previous studies are as reassuring as they can possibly be.

"We don't know if there are risks with these technologies; we don't have reason to believe there are risks, but no one really knows. The only way to find out is wait a long time and look," says Grifo.

Because this study was done by people who do not perform IVF themselves, Grifo says it also carries more weight that those conducted by people with a vested interest in the procedure.

"This is the most reassuring data to date that if there are risks to these procedures they are so small that they almost not measurable in good studies. That's really the bottom line, so that's a good thing," Grifo tells WebMD.

In addition, Kaplan says the results are consistent with prior U.S. studies indicating this technology really does not create any increase in problems with the children. "I think these further studies, particularly from the European groups, adds to our armamentarium in being able to reassure patients that this is a safe technology," says Kaplan.

Researchers say further studies need to be done on even larger numbers of IVF and ICSI babies and over longer periods of time, but the current study appears to show the procedures themselves do not cause any long-term damage in the children.

"Nothing is risk-free," says Grifo. "Patients make choices. If there are risks, most patients are willing to take them because they are educated about the potential risks even though we don't know that they are any, patients still choose to do this stuff."

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