One reasonable question to ask when undergoing an infertility protocol is how that treatment will affect the children. That question becomes more pointed when it comes to in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Are IVF Babies Healthy?
Are the babies born to people who use IVF okay? Are they healthy? The answer is relatively uncomplicated.
In the over five million babies born using the IVF fertility treatment protocol, the babies are mainly healthy.
Research shows that one way to be more specific in answering the question of whether babies born through IVF are healthy is to ask about multiple fetuses, most often resulting from transferring multiple embryos to the uterus. This is one area where IVF babies and families do show an increase of problems, specifically in prematurity, often attributed to multiple pregnancies (more than one fetus being carried at a time) and is an area of concern.
IVF Babies & Prematurity
A report released in 2012, sponsored by the March of Dimes, The Partnership for Maternal, newborn and Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization called Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth is a 102 page report on over 65 countries on the issue of prematurity.
There are only five references to IVF and ART (assisted reproductive technology), three of which are quoted verbatim in this blog. The other two references were research cited in the report.
Keeping in mind that this report was released five years ago, what's worthy to note is that when it comes to prematurity and ART or IVF, the overriding concern is how many fetuses are being carried per pregnancy. There is no mention of concerns with prematurity with either IVF or ART and a single embryo. There appears to be no correlation drawn or even concern about IVF and ART and prematurity with these leading health and research organizations except in the cases of multiple fetuses per pregnancy.
These are the paragraphs where IVF and/or ART are cited:
"Of 65 countries with reliable trend data, all but 3 show an increase in preterm birth rates over the past 20 years. Possible reasons for this include better measurement and changes in health such as increases in maternal age and underlying maternal health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure; greater use of infertility treatments leading to increased rates of multiple pregnancies; and changes in obstetric practices such as more cesarean births before term. "
"Policies on infertility treatments and use of assisted reproductive technologies directed to limiting the number of embryos that can be transferred have shown success in reducing the number of higher-order births and the associated high risk of preterm birth in Europe, Australia and the United States (Iams et al., 2008; Jain et al., 2004;min et al., 2006)."
"In settings with greater capacity, professional policies regulating assisted reproductive technologies and infertility treatments should be put into place to reduce the number of multiple gestations at higher risk of preterm birth.”
Elective Single Embryo Tranfser (eSET)
The same year that the "Born Too Soon" report came out, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) also released a report which questioned multiple embryo transfer and the risks associated with a multiple pregnancy as opposed to eSET (elective single embryo transfer). Particularly with the advances in the IVF laboratory, pre-genetic screening of embryos and increased attention to endometrial receptivity, the ability to transfer one embryo back to the uterus is a better and better option.
There are ongoing questions regarding the health of IVF children, most of which are being answered in a reassuring manner. Consider this just the beginning of the conversation.