Babies born using IVF face increased risk of dying in first year: study

Doctor Katarzyna Koziol injects sperm directly into an egg during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) at Novum clinic in Warsaw October 26, 2010.
Doctor Katarzyna Koziol injects sperm directly into an egg during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) at Novum clinic in Warsaw October 26, 2010. | (Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel)

Babies born via in vitro fertilization face a greater risk of dying during their first year of life than babies conceived naturally, a study has found. 

Researchers from Sweden analyzed data of nearly 3 million births across more than 30 years, finding that babies born through the use of IVF had a 45 percent higher mortality rate during their first 12 months of life, The Telegraph reported.

Low birth weights and the increased likelihood that they were born prematurely are among the reasons for this higher risk, the scientists explained in the study. An additional risk factor the researchers found is the underlying causes of infertility, which might also mean increased risk of health problems when children are conceived. The research was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

In the U.K., approximately 3.9 of 1,000 babies born die within their first year of life.

“The proportions of children who were born preterm or with a low birth weight for gestational age were higher in assisted reproductive techniques-conceived than in natural conceived children," said Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg, a researcher and an associate professor at the Department of Oncology and Pathology at Karolinska Institute.

“The main drivers for the first year mortality risk among children conceived with assisted reproductive techniques included respiratory distress, incomplete lung development, infections and neonatal hemorrhage, which are conditions often linked to prematurity.”

Dr. Jane Stewart, who chairs the British Fertility Society added, “It has long been known that babies born through assisted conception techniques may have a small but increased risk of perinatal problems.

“What is not clear is whether this relates specifically to the treatment or if there are factors relating to the population of couples going through treatment which puts them at increased risk."

The use of reproductive technologies has increased in recent decades as increasing numbers of young people in the West delay marriage and childbearing until later in life.

Opinions vary significantly among professing Christians as to the ethics of certain kinds of fertility interventions. The Roman Catholic Church is formally opposed in its teaching to IVF.

“Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person," its official Catechism states.

"Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children. Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union. ... Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person.”

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