New Study Finds That Risk of Birth Defects Has Declined For Babies Conceived Through Assisted-Reproduction Techniques
To add fuel to the debate over whether babies conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) have a higher risk of birth defects, a new study has found that birth defects for babies conceived through assisted-reproduction techniques (ART) have gone down over the past decade. ART encompasses all types of artificial methods for achieving pregnancy, including IVF, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, intrauterine insemination, and cryopreservation.
The study out of Western Australia examined data on over 207,000 births, including babies who were conceived through two IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, two of the most common techniques. Of the total amount, 1,328 were conceived by IVF and 633 were conceived by intracytoplasmic sperm injection between 1994 and 2002. Researchers found that in general, 8% of babies had birth defects such as cleft lip, heart defects, and defects in the abdominal wall and genitals, compared with 5% of babies who were conceived without artificial methods. However, when the researchers compared data from 1994 through 1998 to the data from 1998 through 2002, they found a decline in the percentage of birth defects -- from 11% to 7.5%.
Researchers are not certain of the reasons behind this change. Some speculate that as ART is used more widely over time, different methods are used that could have a notable impact. For instance, laboratories could be using different medication to stimulate the ovaries, or require smaller doses over a shorter period of time. Regardless, researchers believe that what this demonstrates is that, despite the overall higher risk of birth defects, ART is becoming safer all the time, and most babies conceived through ART will be born healthy.
It is encouraging news that rates of birth defects from ART have decreased gradually. After the time and expense involved with IVF and other types of ART, having a child with a birth defect would be a serious blow, both emotionally and financially. If your child was born with a birth defect that you believe was due to IVF, are there ways that you could get relief? You always have the option of filing a medical malpractice suit against the ones who administered the technique. This would involve arguing that the person or persons did not use reasonable care, and as a result, you were injured. That might be a challenge to prove, since records might not indicate whether the methods used for your ART deviated in any way from an ART that led to a normal pregnancy and birth. If you believe the problem was not the way the ART was administered, but the medication you received as part of the treatment, you might also consider filing a product liability suit against the drug manufacturer. There, you would argue that the manufacturer created an unreasonably dangerous drug that caused you injury, with the result being your child's birth defect.