Assisted Reproduction Kids Healthy as Naturally Conceived

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Babies conceived through assisted reproduction (search), such as in vitro fertilization (search), are just as likely as babies conceived naturally to grow up healthy, says a new European study.

No developmental differences were found between 5-year-olds conceived naturally and those who got their start through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (search) (ICSI).

“The results of this study are reassuring for parents who have conceived through ICSI or IVF,” write the researchers, calling for more work on the topic.

Similar results were reported in 2003 from another European study. Of course, there are no guarantees for any child’s health, no matter how they are conceived.

Millions Born Through Assisted Reproductive Technology

It’s been more than a quarter of a century since the first “test-tube” baby was born. Louise Brown was conceived through IVF in England in 1978. Since then, millions of babies worldwide have been born with help from reproductive technology, which includes IVF and ICSI.

Some concerns have been raised about the fact that ICSI bypasses natural sperm selection, say the researchers. That could make it possible to allow a higher incidence of genetic problems. Natural sperm selection assumes that the highest quality sperm fertilizes the egg. The offspring receives high-quality genetic material. In ICSI, a sperm is selected in a lab and is injected into an egg. The fertilized egg is later placed within the mother’s uterus.

The few studies of babies conceived through ICSI have often focused on very young children, say the researchers.

Do Means of Conception Matter?

The new study tested developmental skills in 511 kids conceived through ICSI, 424 conceived through IVF, and 488 naturally conceived children. The kids lived in five European countries — Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Sweden, and the U.K.

All of the IVF and ICSI children were single births. No twins, triplets, or other multiple babies were included.

Thinking and motor skills were tested and found to be similar in all three groups of children.

The study comes from researchers including A.G. Sutcliffe, MD, of the pediatrics department at London’s University College Medical School. Their report appears in the March issue of Pediatrics.

In case you were wondering, Louise Brown grew up normally — except for the worldwide media attention. She had her 25th birthday in 2003, and was a postal worker in England at the time.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, I. Pediatrics, March 2005; vol 115: pp e283-e289. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics. WebMD Medical News: “IVF, ICSI Babies As Healthy As Others.” CNN, “25th Birthday For Test-Tube Baby.”