In one of the largest studies to date to address the issue of whether reproductive technologies increase the risk of birth defects researchers came to the conclusion that standard IVF does not increase the risk of birth defects. This research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine May 05, 2012.
Researchers in Australia studied birth defects in over 300,000 women which included 308,974 births,6163of which had resulted from assisted reproductive technologies.
Women who underwent IVF with standard insemination did not show any significant increase in birth defects when adjusted for maternal age and other factors. This was true for singletons, twins and high order multiple gestations.
As in previous studies, this study showed that women simply with a history of infertility who did not undergo IVF had a small, but significant increase in birth defects.
Finally, women who conceived with IVF and Inractyoplasmic Insemination (ICSI) and had fresh embryo transfers had a small but significant increase in birth defects (Odds ratio=1.73). This may be attributable to the fact that many ICSI cycles are performed with sperm that are very abnormal; in these cases a single sperm needs to be forced into each egg to attain normal fertilization; there may be a higher incidence of abnormal DNA in these sperm. It is highly unlikely but possible that the ICSI process may increase the odds of malformations.
Interestingly, an increased risk of malformations was not seen in twins or high order multiple pregnancies conceived with IVF and ICSI compared with other multiple gestation births.