Single IVF Babies May Be Healthiest
Single Babies Born From Infertility Treatments as Healthy as Those Conceived the Old-Fashioned Way
June 21, 2005 -- New findings should help calm fears that conception through
assisted reproduction poses an inherent danger to the baby.
A new European study shows that babies born as a result of infertility
treatments are as healthy as those conceived without help from medical science
-- as long as only one embryo is transferred.
The research also helps validate the move toward transferring fewer embryos
in certain women undergoing assisted reproduction.
In an effort to reduce multiple births, several European countries,
including Belgium, now mandate that only a single embryo be transferred into
the uterus when there is a higher likelihood of pregnancy. But a fertility
expert tells WebMD that this isn't a good option for many American women.
"The single-embryo transfer strategy does seem to be working, and I see
no reason that it should not be expanded to include more women with a good
prognosis for having a baby," gynecologist and researcher Diane De
Neubourg, MD, tells WebMD. She presented her study in Copenhagen, Denmark, at a
meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
Singles Babies Are Healthier
Most problems from assisted reproduction stem from twin, triplet, and
higher-order pregnancies. But the risk of major birth defects and low birth
weight also seems to be higher for single babies conceived though assisted
It has not been clear whether this increase in risk is caused by infertility
procedures like in vitro fertility (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection
(ICSI), or whether it is related to the infertility itself.
In an effort to address this issue, De Neubourg and colleagues from
Antwerp's Centre for Reproductive Medicine followed women undergoing assisted
reproduction in Belgium between 1998 and 2003. They then compared results of
babies born to women who had single-embryo transfers to babies born without the
use of assisted reproduction.
A third of the women undergoing assisted reproduction had single-embryo
transfers. But the percentage increased over time, presumably due to changes in
the transfer policy, from 12% in 1998 to 54% in 2003.
The Belgium mandate calls for all women with a higher likelihood of
pregnancy younger than 36 to have a single embryo transfer during her first
assisted reproduction attempt.
The proportion of single, rather than multiple-birth, pregnancies also
increased, from 66% of all assisted conception pregnancies in 1998 to 87% in
De Neubourg tells WebMD that when compared with babies born to mothers who
conceived spontaneously, the single-embryo-transfer babies had similar birth
weights. They were also no more likely to be born preterm and the frequency of
stillbirths was the same in both groups.
U.S. Patients Older
Women in Europe undergoing assisted reproduction are more likely to be
considered good candidates for single transfer than those in the U.S., says
American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Executive Director Robert