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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

IVF and Birth Defects

One of the promises of IVF is that it should avoid birth defects by using sperm washing to identify the "best" ones and pre-implantation screening to hand-pick which embryos will go on to a fully human life. The opposite is the case and it has been known for some time.

This article from nearly three years ago in the NY Times shows an interesting statistic from a study published in November 2008 that IVF increases the risk of birth defects. Specifically, of the nearly 4800 babies in the study born without birth defects, 1.1% were conceived by IVF, whereas of the nearly 9600 babies in the study born with birth defects, 2.4% were conceived by IVF. It's a strange statistic as described by the Times because what we really want to know is the flip side: Of those babies conceived by IVF, what percentage end up with birth defects compared with those conceived naturally? We cannot figure it out from the data because the number of birth defects is hugely disproportionate to the incidence of birth defects in the general populate. Also, we do not know the rate of IVF among the general population from the study.

But the data do suggest that artificial reproductive techniques using IVF in some way increase the risk of birth defects.

This other story relates the travails of a fertility physician in Canada who is being sued because of the birth defects associated with IVF. The problem in this physician's view stems from how IVF practitioners routinely transfer 2 or more embryos into the womb to maximize the chance that at least one thrives--often more than one will, and multiple births are associated with birth defects and other difficulties. He and many other IVF practitioners have taken to transferring only one embryo at a time instead of multiple ones to minimize the risks.

And possibly increase the profits. If singleton transfers do not always take, then multiple singleton transfers will be necessary to achieve one live birth. And that means more procedures. And more money.

Now, if only the number of embryos created by IVF could be reduced precisely to the number that will be implanted at any one time, as is the case in Germany and Italy, there would not be surplus embryos destined for destruction, experimentation, or a ghoulish, indefinite frozen limbo.


  1. If ivf treatment is done correctly than there is no chance of disability in child. Basically it depends on the birth of embryo.

    intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection

  2. Thanks for stopping by! I guess, then, IVF is not being done correctly:

    By the way, the link you provide speaks nothing of the chance of birth defects with ICSI. (It is also a little creepy where it says "one to three of the best quality embryos are transferred to the womb." I know what is meant, but it is still creepy.)

  3. Let me share to you something about birth defects. Antidepressants like Zoloft may cause these. Zoloft-attributed birth defects are preventable so patients should be very watchful on the medications they take especially during pregnancy.