Are There Any Health Risks With IVF Babies?

 Are There Any Health Risks With IVF Babies?


IVF has blessed thousands of infertile couples with the joy of parenthood in the last few decades. Although the advancement in the area of medical science has helped a lot of people fulfilling their dream of building a family, its credibility is always questionable. Many people believe that babies born under Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) are not as healthy as those Naturally Conceived (NC) ones. Medical experts are continually doing numerous research to bust out the bubble of myths and disbelief considering IVF babies. 

The main difference between IVF babies and naturally conceived babies is their process of conception. The natural process of fertilization takes place in the fallopian tube inside the female's body, the formed embryo then travels to the womb for further development and grows there for nine months. Whereas in IVF the fertilization takes place in a petri dish in a laboratory designed especially for the process, later the created embryo is implanted into the uterus for development. After the implantation of the embryo into the uterus, the following phases of its development are the same as natural conception.

Though IVF babies also develop naturally same as the naturally conceived babies, there are some health risks they can face. It is true that in some cases, IVF babies are often born prematurely with low birth weight and the chances of congenital birth defects and neurological disorders are higher in them. It is likely for them to develop autism or any learning disability. However, it’s proven that the factors responsible for the abnormalities could be the parent's fertility or age rather than the medical process. Multiple births possess a higher amount of risks as compared to a singleton. 

According to the results of a Cohort study, IVF children with birth defects are more likely to develop childhood cancer compared to those conceived naturally. There can be nearly seven times the risk of cancer in kids conceived via IVF who have a major birth defect (hazard ratio 6.90, 95% CI 3.73-12.74), as reported by Barbara Luke, ScD, MPH, of Michigan State University in East Lansing. On the other hand, researchers wrote in JAMA Network Open that children conceived without any medical assistance and had a birth defect were three times more likely to have cancer (hazard ratio 3.15, 95% CI 2.40-4.14). 

Alan Penzias, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF commented that while continued research into causes and prevention of cancer should remain a priority, the absolute risk of cancer in IVF babies is small. Penzias acknowledged that epigenomic alterations as a result of IVF could be a possible reason for birth defects and cancer. Although, some experts believe that there are no links to these assumptions which can establish them as fact. 

Macrosomia or the higher birth weight of the child can cause hypertension or cardiological problems later in life. Although, if a fresh embryo transfer is done in a natural cycle after the process of IVF, there is no risk of the child being overweight. But in cases of frozen embryo transfer, there are chances of macrosomia.

It is a misconception that IVF babies are born through C-sections only. The method of delivery depends on the health and weight of the baby and the well-being of the mother. In IVF pregnancy the chances of normal delivery are the same as for natural conception. 

Regarding mental health issues, Swedish researchers report there is no increased risk of mental health issues in later life for IVF children. Though there is a slightly higher risk of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) that is owed to the parental background they claimed. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry focused on mental health in children and adolescents conceived with Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) was done by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. It was quoted by study co-author Dr. Sara Oberg, an associate professor of medical epidemiology and biostatistics "In the end, we did not find that use of ART had any adverse influence on children's psychiatric health as they go through adolescence." 

On the other hand, a new study conducted by the University of Helsinki suggested that children born with IVF are smarter but also can be more depressed. The study compared 280,000 children conceived through ART and naturally, born between 1995-2000 in Finland until they turned 18. It was learned that those children who were born through ART are better performers in school and are more likely to be employed in comparison to those conceived naturally — however, admitted that the influence of external factors may be more than the method of conception. A study published in the European Journal of Population suggested that socioeconomic backgrounds are a crucial factor, but there is no strong evidence in favor of IVF causing mental health issues. “Whilst we don’t have the data to explain why those born by medically assisted reproduction are at slightly higher risk of mental health disorders, we believe that this may be due to different mechanisms,” said lead author Dr. Hanna Remes, of the University of Helsinki. 

The bottom line is that babies born through IVF are physically and mentally healthy. The medical procedure of conception does not pose any risks to the well-being of the parents or child, even in the future. The probability of developing congenital malformations or cancer is equal to those of naturally conceived babies. Considering all the facts, IVF is still a blessing to those who are not able to conceive naturally. The larger number of babies born via IVF  are healthy both physically and mentally which assures the success of the procedure. With some precautions and proper medical guidance, people can embrace the happiness of parenthood and welcome the love of a child in their life.

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