IVF Carries Higher Stillbirth Risk, Study Finds

Women who undergo (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and who become pregnant, experience an increased risk of giving birth to a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/birth_injuries">stillborn baby, according to Danish scientists, said Reuters.

In IVF, an egg is fertilized by sperm in a laboratory dish, while ICSI involves fertilization of an egg via injection of a single sperm, noted Reuters. ICSI has long been the main method used to overcome male infertility, and its use is on the rise. If successful fertilization occurs, the embryo is then placed into the female via IVF treatment. Fertilization rates—which are not the same as pregnancy rates—are relatively high when ICSI is employed.

The research team from the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark reviewed 20,000 single pregnancies and discovered that women who underwent IVF or ICSI experienced a “four-fold increased risk of stillbirths” versus women who conceived their children naturally, said Reuters.
“The results from our study emphasize the need for continuous follow-up of the outcome of fertility treatments so that the information given to infertile couples seeking treatment can be differentiated to their individual circumstances,” wrote Kirsten Wisborg, study lead, in the journal Human Reproduction, quoted Reuters.

Wisborg added that the risk for stillbirth for both IVF and ICSI pregnancies at 16.2 per every one thousand pregnancies versus the incidence of 3.7 per every thousand pregnancies in fertile couples who conceived naturally, reported Reuters. It remains unclear if the increased risk was attributable to the fertility treatment or to other issues unique to couples who undergo IVF or ICSI, explained Reuters.

In the past, physicians believed the increased risk of negative outcomes, such as stillbirths, was attributable to issues unique to infertility; however,
Wisborg and her team noticed that the same risk of stillbirth was present in fertile couples who became pregnant within one year of trying and “sub-fertile” couples who took longer to conceive, wrote Reuters. “This may indicate that the increased risk of stillbirth is not explained by infertility and may be due to other, as yet unexplained, factors, such as the technology involved in IVF and ICSI or some physiological difference in the couples that require (it),” Wisborg wrote, quoted Reuters.

In 2008, we wrote that Chinese researchers reported that the use of IVF or ICSI to conceive appears to increase the odds of Y-chromosome defects or “microdeletions” in male offspring. Although that study was small, it “at least sounds an alarm about the genetic safety of assisted reproductive technology,” the investigators concluded.

This means that the chromosomal defects, or deletions, could result in defective sperm production and possibly also hypospadias. Hypospadia is a congenital malformation of the male sex organs in which the urinary outlet, or urethra, does not open through the glans of the penis, but rather, develops on the underside of the penis.

Prior research linked assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF and
ICSI with low birth weight, pre-term delivery, cerebral palsy, and major birth defects. Because of this, some researchers believe that such therapies may prompt gene mutations.

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