By Hilary White

LONDON, March 23, 2009 ( – The British government’s embryo research authority has warned potential parents that children conceived artificially through in vitro fertilization have a thirty percent higher risk of genetic abnormalities.

Reports of higher levels of birth defects among IVF children have been making headlines since at least 2003, but the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has only this week issued a warning on the matter. The HFEA said that parents should be told of the risks associated with IVF, but emphasized that not all the risks are fully understood and more research is needed.

The Daily Mail notes that research by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, published online last month in the Human Reproduction journal, found that IVF babies suffer from heart valve defects, cleft lip and palate, and digestive system abnormalities due to the bowel or esophagus failing to form properly.

For years researchers have warned that IVF children risk complications such as Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome; rare urological defects including bladder development outside the body; heart or central nervous system abnormalities, and dangerously low birth weight.

Evidence presented at a symposium at the Monash Institute of Reproduction and development in Melbourne in 2003 showed that certain IVF techniques may pass on birth defects from fathers with defective sperm. In 2002 scientists from Johns Hopkins and Washington University School of Medicine reported that IVF-initiated conception was six times more likely to be associated with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome than the general population.

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Researchers Admit IVF Carries Higher Birth Defect Risk