Babies that have been conceived through assisted reproductive techniques like IVF, as opposed to naturally, are at a higher risk of mortality in the first few weeks of their life, a study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, has revealed.
According to the researchers, the association between IVF and mortality stems from the fact that there are many premature births in IVF-conceived children. The study, however, states that the risk of infant mortality is still very small for both the groups and after the first year, there is no difference.
For the study, the researchers selected only singleton babies and compared the mortality rate of those born with assisted birth measures, and those who were conceived naturally. The data of almost 2.8 million children born in Sweden over a period of 30 years was analysed. Of these, some 43,500 babies were born of assisted techniques.
It was found that while a total of 7,236 children died before the age of one, only 114 of them were conceived with assisted reproductive techniques. After factoring in the age of the mother and earlier infertility, researchers came to the conclusion that babies conceived through IVF, had a 45 per cent higher risk of death before the age of one. The level of risk also depends on the type of assisted reproductive technique, and the number of days since birth. The risk declines after the first few weeks of life, the study said.
Type of assisted reproductive technique
Understanding this is important because as per the findings of the study, babies conceived through transfer of a frozen embryo, had “more than two-fold higher risk of death” than those conceived naturally. This finding was, however, based on only a small sample, and after one week, the risk was found to have been dropped to the same level as that of natural conception.
It was also found that babies conceived via transfer of a fresh embryo, or with the help of an ‘intracytoplasmic sperm injection’ (ICSI) — where a single sperm is injected into the egg — were not at a higher risk of mortality, regardless of the number of days since birth.
As mentioned before, the researchers understand that this could be because more IVF babies are born prematurely. Also, the infertility could cause more complications. The leading causes of mortality in these babies include: incomplete lung development, respiratory distress, infections, and neonatal hemorrhage.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines