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No need to panic over IVF baby studies

Dr Jess Buxton

Progress Educational Trust

12 March 2002

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[BioNews, London] This week's BioNews reports on two new studies of babies born following assisted conception. One of the studies shows that these babies tend to be smaller than usual, and the other shows that they may have a increased risk of birth defects. What do these findings mean for couples undergoing, or about to begin, IVF treatment?

Many studies have looked at the outcome of assisted conceptions, and most have found no evidence that IVF has any effect on the baby's health. One of the lead authors of the birth defect study stressed that the results of her study should be taken alongside those carried out by other groups. She also pointed out that more than 90 per cent of babies born following IVF treatment are healthy, but called for further research into the subject. It is not yet clear whether the increase in risk of birth defects is related to the increased risk of small birth weight, or whether either problem is related to any part of the IVF procedure.

However, no medical procedure is without risk, and it remains the responsibility of doctors to fully inform their patients of risks before they undergo any treatment. Pregnancy and birth carry risks anyway, even with natural conceptions. These risks are different for each couple, and depend on many factors, including age, lifestyle and family medical history. As one fertility specialist told the UK media last week, IVF doctors need to individually assess the risks for each particular couple, rather than make general rules.

Despite the findings of these two latest studies, the fact remains that when IVF treatment is successful, it offers a 90-95 per cent chance of having a healthy baby. Research into the effects of IVF treatments must continue, but in the meantime, many couples who cannot get pregnant without them will decide the risks are worth taking.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 12 March 2002   Date Updated: 11 September 2004
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