NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Birth Defects and Assisted Reproduction

September 25, 2003

There is mounting evidence that in-vitro fertilization (IVF) could be linked to a number of birth defects, says the Wall Street Journal. IVF is one of a number of assisted reproductive technologies available.

These technologies are also expensive, and as their use spreads there is increasing pressure for private insurers and publicly funded health services to cover their cost. The total health bill will be much higher, however, if there is a substantially greater risk of chronic medical conditions, disabilities or premature deaths.

A million children have been born worldwide using assisted reproduction, ranging from artificial insemination to IVF. Among the findings in recent scientific studies:

  • Data from a national registry of patients with Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome (abnormal growth, carrying an increased cancer risk) showed that conception with IVF was six times as common as in the general population.
  • Urological defects, including abnormal bladder development, appear to be more common in children conceived through IVF.
  • Even singleton IVF babies, rather than only twins and other multiples, are twice as likely to be born at very low birth weights than other children, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Infants conceived through IVF have twice as high a risk of having a major birth defect -- such as a heart or central nervous system abnormality -- as naturally conceived infants, according to a large study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Since the rate of major birth defects is 4.2 percent in children conceived naturally, this implies a birth defect rate of 9 percent in IVF children.

Source: Amy Dockser Marcus, "Does IVF Cause Birth Defects?" Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB106367678133804000,00.html


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