By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

PARIS, June 14, 2010 ( – According to the largest study to date on the subject, children conceived by assisted reproductive technology (ART) are almost twice as likely to suffer birth defects compared to children conceived naturally.

Dr. Géraldine Viot, a clinical geneticist at the Maternité Port Royal hospital in Paris, France, found that over 4% of children born through ART had some form of congenital deformity, compared to the rate for children conceived naturally of between 2% and 3%.

“We found a major congenital malformation in 4.24% of the children,” said Dr. Viot, “compared with the 2-3% that we had expected from previous published studies.”

Congenital malformation rates from ART as high as 11% have been reported by some studies. However, Dr. Viot believes the French study results to be more accurate due to the size of the inquiry.

“Given that our study is the largest to date, we think that our data are more likely to be statistically representative of the true picture,” said Dr. Viot.

Dr. Viot and colleagues conducted a survey in 33 French clinics registered for ART and looked at the records for over 15,000 children conceived artificially between 2003 and 2007.

The results of the research were presented Monday morning at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Genetics in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The researchers identified heart problems and malformed reproductive systems as the most common form of major malformation.

“This higher rate was due in part to an excess of heart diseases and malformations of the uro-genital system. This was much more common in boys. Among the minor malformations, we found a five times higher rate of angioma, benign tumours made up of small blood vessels on or near the surface of the skin. These occurred more than twice as frequently in girls than boys” the researchers stated.

The study failed to pinpoint the cause of the higher rate of malformation due to ART and considered multiple factors such as “the relationship between embryo culture media, timing of embryo transfer, the effects of ovarian stimulation, the use of ICSI, where sperm is injected directly into the egg, freezing of gametes and embryos.”

“We estimate that in France some 200,000 children have been born through ART. A malformation rate of this magnitude is a public health issue,” Viot said.

“It is important that all doctors, and also politicians, are informed about this,” she added.

The researchers conclude that couples considering undergoing assisted reproductive technology treatment should be informed about the increased risk of congenital malformation posed by the use of ART, and that doctors should be prepared to inform parents of these risks.

“At a time when infertility is increasing and more and more couples need to use ART to conceive, it is vitally important that we find out as much as we can about what is causing malformations in these children,” Viot said.

See related LSN articles:

IVF Technique May Pass on Genetic Defects to Children

U.K. Embryo Authority Warns IVF Children Have 30% Higher Risk of Genetic Abnormality

Children Conceived by IVF Have Nearly Twice as Many Health Problems

Finnish Study finds IVF Increases Risk of Deformity

See related LSN articles on NaProTechnology (Natural Procreative Technology or NPT), a non-invasive fertility-care based medical approach to the treatment of infertility:

Landmark Study Demonstrates Natural IVF Alternative Effective in Helping Infertile Couples Conceive

Fertility Treatment is Hugely Successful but Largely Ignored by Medicine