15 March 2002Children conceived with assisted reproductive technology (ART), for example IVF, have about twice the risk of having a major birth defect or low birth weight than children conceived naturally, Australian and US studies show.
In the Australian study, children conceived with ART had a 9 per cent chance of a major birth defect compared with a 4 per cent chance in naturally conceived children. The study was published in the medical journal New England Journal of Medicine (2002; 346: 725-30).
This increased risk was the same whether the children were from single or multiple pregnancies, the review of all births in Western Australia showed.
The use of ART also increased the chances of multiple major defects, chromosomal and musculoskeletal defects.
Age of the mother and parity (the number of times she has given birth before) and the sex of the child did not affect the results.
The US study showed a 2.3 per cent increased risk of low birth weight in term singleton children (as opposed to children from multiple births, such as twins) conceived with ART compared to children conceived naturally (New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346: 731-37).
The risk did not vary according to the cause of infertility, and because the mothers were all apparently healthy, the increased risk of low birth weight after ART may be directly related to the techniques themselves, the authors suggested.
Last Reviewed: 22 March 2002