“I read with interest media reports about a recent study suggesting some children conceived through IVF may have higher rates of heart vessel problems.
Genea and its accredited doctors have reviewed the research from Switzerland, which was based on a small number of IVF children.
Genea, along with IVF units in Australia and around the world regularly review their results and maintain information about children born from IVF. For example, in Australia the outcomes of every single IVF cycle are recorded and assessed by a central independent body (ANZARD). Additionally, there are regular research publications where specific groups of children conceived through IVF are reported upon.
The Swiss study published recently, reported upon a very small number of IVF children, relative to the many thousands of babies that have been born worldwide from this technique. The authors did acknowledge that the study size was small and may not be representative of IVF children generally.
When we assess the outcomes from IVF, researchers have to take a number of factors into consideration. We do want to ensure that the laboratory environment in which IVF embryos grow is completely maximized for normal development. However, another very important factor is that couples who require IVF may have other health issues that necessitate this treatment being undertaken. On average, couples undertaking IVF are older than couples conceiving naturally. Some have other problems such as hormone disorders that lead to irregular egg development, whilst others have significant changes in sperm parameters. Any of these or other factors might lead to higher rates of developmental issues in children. In other words, there may be an influence of the couples that require IVF, as opposed to the IVF process itself.
We also know that twins have higher rates of developmental problems and worldwide, multiple pregnancy rates are higher after IVF because of the transfer of multiple embryos at a time. This is one of the reasons why Genea pioneered research into single embryo transfer and why today we still actively encourage that practice.
In summary, whilst studies like this recent Swiss study naturally cause concern amongst doctors and patients, we would remind couples that studies like this are small, that there are many confounding factors that may not be directly attributable to the IVF process itself and that worldwide, over the last three decades IVF treatment has been shown to be successful and overwhelmingly safe.”
Dr Mark Bowman is presently the President of the Fertility Society of Australia and the immediate past Chairman of the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Committee for RANZCOG and sits on the International Advisory Board of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. You can find out more about Dr Bowman here and you can follow him on Twitter @ProfMarkBowman