Fertility treatment risks

By • Published: March 2nd, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Since 1981, when the first baby was born in the United States with an assist from assisted reproductive technology… called A-R-T … many more procedures have resulted in many more babies.

Nationally, more than forty-nine-thousand of the four million babies born in 2005 were conceived with a little help from the lab… via fertility treatments that manipulate sperm or eggs. But with A-R-T comes an increased likelihood of multiple births.

A-R-T-enabled births make up just one percent of all births, but about half involve more than one baby. In all, A-R-T accounts for sixteen percent of twins and almost forty percent of triplets and higher-order births in the United States.

Though it might sound exciting to have several cute-and-cuddly babies all at once, multiple births can be dangerous. Risks of pre-term delivery, low birth weight and infant death and disability all rise in comparison with single births, regardless of how babies are conceived.

In addition, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data from 1997 to 2003 and recently reported that a single baby born through A-R-T is two to almost five times more likely to have malformations of the heart, lips, esophagus or rectum than a naturally conceived baby. They found no such elevated risk with multiple births involving A-R-T.

Still, the absolute risk of any individual birth defect in A-R-T babies remains low. However, prospective parents are advised to consider all the risks. More information is available online from the C-D-C’s National Center on Birth Defects.