Are children of IVF healthy?

Are children of IVF healthy

Since the discovery of IVF, several million children have been born with this treatment. However, there is limited data on the health of these infants and their development beyond the first year of life.

The majority of earlier assessments of IVF-born offspring were only concerned with short-term follow-up. While there may be a higher risk of cancer in children born through IVF treatment and possible variations in metabolic indices, studies focusing on adolescents have yielded generally reassuring evidence. The longer-term general health outcomes of children born as a result of IVF need to be described in greater depth than has previously been done. (1)

Are children born with IVF physically different? 

One study found that although ART-created children of school age were smaller at birth and experienced quick growth, their height and weight were substantially comparable to naturally conceived kids of the same age. 

Since the first IVF birth, the physical, intellectual, and mental effects of ART on healthy child development have been a source of continued worry. Since then, a strong link has been shown between fertility treatments and unfavorable pregnancy outcomes. 

Researchers in China conducted a meta-analysis and discovered a considerably higher risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and tiny gestational age. A multicenter study indicated that children born with ICSI and IVF require more medical resources than those born naturally. (2)

Is the growth process of children born with IVF the same as those born normally? 

Compared to children born without reproductive treatment, less is known about how ART children continue to develop in terms of their height, weight, and body mass index. Now, a sizable continuing long-term prospective cohort study has provided some hints, indicating that fertility therapy – at least during infancy – may contribute to variations in development patterns and that underlying parental infertility may also have an impact. 

The “reassuring” message for parents and clinics, according to the authors, is that this effect does not last until puberty. Indeed, at age 17, ART children’s growth patterns resemble those of their normally conceived counterparts. (3)

Why do ART children grow up differently at an early age?

Given that the offspring of subfertile parents were also shown to have different growth patterns, the authors speculate that  one likely explanation may lie in the ART procedures themselves (hormone treatments, culture media), the real cause may be “underlying factors influencing parental fertility problems.” (4)

Do children born with IVF treatment have congenital abnormalities?

It is now widely accepted that ART-related births result in a higher rate of congenital abnormalities than spontaneous births. Children born as a result of moderate ovarian stimulation, intrauterine insemination therapy, or even spontaneous conception by low-fertility women may be somewhat more likely to have congenital abnormalities. 

The higher chance of conceiving a child with a congenital defect as a result of IVF treatment could be due to two factors: The genetics of the couples requiring IVF therapy or the medical care they have received (controlled uncontrolled). The danger is raised as a result of ovarian hyperstimulation or the culture media to which the embryo is exposed.

As there is no cure for children who were conceived as a result of IVF treatment, it may be claimed that the risk of congenital defects may be related to couples seeking fertility treatment or micromanipulation of gametes, rather than self-medication. To summarize briefly, this situation may have more to do with the genetic origin of the mother-to-be rather than the IVF cycle in which she became pregnant. (5)

Do IVF babies have health problems later in life?

There is currently no conclusive evidence that suggests that children conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) are more likely to have health problems later in life compared to those conceived naturally.

Several studies have looked at the long-term health outcomes of IVF-conceived children, and overall, the findings have been reassuring. While some studies have reported slightly higher rates of certain health conditions, such as low birth weight or certain birth defects, others have found no significant differences in health outcomes between IVF-conceived children and those conceived naturally.

A new study has found that young adults conceived through IVF are generally healthy, but have higher rates of certain psychological problems such as ADHD, depression, and binge drinking compared to the general population. However, since the earliest stages of embryonic development are different for children conceived through IVF, they may have different risks of chronic health conditions later in life.

It’s important to note that some factors, such as the underlying cause of infertility, the specific IVF techniques used, and the health of the parents, can affect the health outcomes of IVF-conceived children. However, in general, IVF is considered a safe and effective option for couples struggling with infertility.

Is there a link between IVF and childhood cancer?

Notably, some studies have drawn attention to a potential association between IVF and an increased incidence of certain cancers in children, with liver tumors being of specific concern. Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognize that these findings remain inconclusive, awaiting further investigation to solidify any potential correlation.

Furthermore, extensive research has yet to demonstrate a significant uptick in the overall cancer risk among IVF offspring. For instance, a study conducted by the University of Minnesota in 2019 did reveal a somewhat elevated presence of hepatic tumors in children born via IVF in comparison to those conceived naturally. However:

  • The instances of such tumors were minimal.
  • The precise cause of this potential link remains ambiguous.

This uncertainty suggests that the IVF process itself, the parental factors underlying infertility, or even random chance might contribute to the observed trend. Consequently, while the pursuit of understanding continues, the health of IVF children, particularly in relation to cancer risk, remains a complex topic, emphasizing the need for ongoing research.

Source: 

1-Hart, R., & Norman, R. J. (2013). The longer-term health outcomes for children born as a result of IVF treatment: Part I–General health outcomes. Human reproduction update, 19(3), 232-243.

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