Fertility treatment has become increasingly common as the median age for motherhood has crept upward, and many families have gotten the chance to grow due to the many medical advances now available.
However, a new study has revealed a certain type of common fertility treatment is linked with a far higher risk of birth defect. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is used in instances of male infertility, and involves using a small glass needle to inject sperm directly into into an egg. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was culled from data out of Australia collected from 300,000 birth records and involving 18,000 birth defects.
In the study, researchers found 6,100 births that resulted from fertility treatment. Risk of birth defects was measured at 8.3% in conceptions wherein the couple received fertility treatment, compared with 5.8% in those that did not. But between in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and ICSI, the numbers differed.
Babies born to couples using IVF was measured at 7.2%, versus a far higher 9.9% rate for ICSI births.
Dr. Bradley J. Van Voorhis is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City. Van Voorhis commented on the data, saying:
“For the most part, this confirms what was already known… It does lend strength to the idea that infertile couples in general are at increased risk of having a child with a birth defect, regardless of whether they’re treated or not.”
What researchers did not yet determine was whether the fertility treatments contributed to the risk of birth defects, or if couples suffering infertility were at risk due to other factors such as poor sperm quality.