Study Shows Risk Of Birth Problems Terrifyingly Doubles After Assisted Conception

sb10065848co-001A study that analyzed almost 300,000 births in southern Australia came to some very disturbing conclusions about assisted conception; “the risk of serious complications such as stillbirth, preterm birth, low birth weight and neonatal death is around twice as high for babies conceived by assisted reproductive therapies compared with naturally conceived babies.”

“Compared with spontaneous conceptions in couples with no record of infertility, singleton babies from assisted conception were almost twice as likely to be stillborn, more than twice as likely to be preterm, almost three times as likely to have very low birth weight, and twice as likely to die within the first 28 days of birth,” the study leader, Professor Michael Davies from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Institute, said.

This is truly disturbing, for so many reasons. Often times, a couple has already been through so much to even get an assisted pregnancy to stick – the thought that there is just a new host of worries to be concerned with once a pregnancy finally does progress is pretty heartbreaking.

I had a friend going through IVF last year. She was going through her treatments right after I had given birth to my second child, at age 40. I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl – but only after a very stressful pregnancy. I don’t know if I was an exception to a rule, but I was made to feel like a damn dinosaur during that pregnancy. All the genetic testing they recommended, the extra ultrasounds, the amniotic fluid level checks – I was terrified. I tried not to let it ruin my pregnancy, but honestly I didn’t enjoy it at all. I was constantly worried.

My friend receiving the IVF treatments was also in her 40′s. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that if she got it to stick – she would still have a probably very stressful pregnancy ahead of her if her experience was at all like mine. The results of this study add a whole new level of anxiety to an already really stressful situation.

I would like to advise women to take studies like these with a grain of salt – but having been through an “advanced maternal age” pregnancy – I know that advice is impossible to follow. I know they are completely different situations, but I am comparing them because in both, you have people telling you that you are not as likely to have a healthy baby. That is the worst thing a pregnant woman can hear.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • Rachel Sea

    This is kind of a no-brainer. Plenty of people using ART have reproductive issues which go deep, including those which cause congenital defects and increased risk of miscarriage, IUGR, and stillbirth.

    • ChelseaBFH

      Not to mention that a lot of people using ART fall into the “advanced maternal age” category too. I always take these studies with a grain of salt unless they’re controlled for age, reason for infertility, etc. There’s a big difference between a woman in her 40s with poor egg quality and a woman in her 20s with blocked tubes, but studies about ART lump everyone together.

    • allisonjayne

      Totally. We did IVF – because my wife and I are ‘infertile’ on account of having zero sperm between the two of us. Other than that, we are both completely fine, and I got pregnant on the first try. The clinic did try to get us to do weekly ultrasounds for the first 12 weeks, which is their standard procedure I guess because of stuff like this – they want to make sure it’ll stick, or catch any ‘issues’ as early as they can (although really, what can they do about them anyway?).

      We declined most, because considering most pregnant women only have 2 ultrasounds their whole pregnancy, I figured 3 or 4 in the first 12 weeks was more than enough. Thankfully, at 12 weeks I was discharged from the clinic and into the welcoming hands of my midwives, who treated my pregnancy the exact same as everyone else’s.

      That said, that adage of “your body won’t grow a baby too big for you to birth” isn’t quite true when the egg comes from another woman. My giant-headed baby got stuck in my narrow pelvis.

    • JLH1986

      I was born 2 months early at a whopping 5 pounds and had my mother gone full term likely both of us would have died as I was bruised from being too big to come through. So that’s one of those old wives tales.

    • allisonjayne


    • JLH1986

      My mom is LEEETLE (she doesn’t know that though). She is all of 5′ tall and even now in her mid 50′s she’s maybe 115. My kid brother was a C-section from jump street. lol

  • Gangle

    I cannot speak for other people, but I know that the fertility group I was/am with made sure that all the facts and figures were on the table, right from the start.

  • lilacorchid

    I really have a problem with this title and article. Doubling means nothing without actual numbers. Which am I supposed to do? Be terrified or read further and take this with a grain of salt?

    Here is an article with actual numbers, unlike the one you linked to. and for those to lazy to click:

    “They found that birth defects were significantly increased for infants
    born after IVF, compared with naturally conceived infants (9.0 percent
    vs. 6.6 percent), even after controlling for maternal factors.
    Specifically, IVF infants had greater rates of malformations of the eye
    (0.3 percent vs. 0.2 percent), heart (5.0 percent vs. 3.0 percent) and
    genitourinary system (1.5 percent vs. 1.0 percent).”

    My takeaway from that is that “naturally conceived infants” have a 6.6% rate of birth defects! So if an IVF couple should use a word like “terrify” to describe their risk at 9.0%, than what is the words we use for 6.6%? “Ignorance is bliss” comes to mind…

  • Alexandra

    I’m going through (half of) this now. I’m considered “advanced maternal age” at 35. Also I’m having twins, which are high risk. Only saving grace is that they’re spontaneous (but try convincing people of that!) which my doctor mentions EVERY VISIT. “Well fortunately your ovaries should be ok, because this was a spontaneous conception.” “Your amniotic fluids seem ok, but that often is the case with spontaneous conception.” etc etc. I feel for anyone who had assisted conception, they must really get put through the ringer.