IVF, ICSI Babies as Healthy as Others
Children Conceived With Infertility Treatments Just as Healthy in the Long Run
Infertile Couples Are Different
Experts also say that the fact these couples experience more birth defects might reflect factors other than the safety of the procedures. Infertile couples are different than those who get pregnant naturally, and some of those things may predispose them to other problems.
For example, Brian Kaplan, MD, reproductive endrocrinologist at the Fertility Centers of Illinois, says infertile couples are already a high-risk group for birth defects and other congential problems for a number of reasons. They usually are older than the general population and are more likely to have multiple pregnancies, which are both known to increase the risk of abnormalities.
"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.
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.