LOS ANGELES, October 23, 2012 ( – Researchers studying the incidence of birth defects in California have found that children conceived by in vitro fertilization have a significantly higher rate of genetic disorders compared to children conceived naturally.

UCLA researchers presented findings from their study, titled, “Congenital Malformations Associated With Assisted Reproductive Technology: A California Statewide Analysis,” on October 20 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference in New Orleans.

The research team noted that despite the increasing use of IVF in the US, links between birth defects and IVF are poorly understood.


The management of birth defects accounts for a large part of pediatric surgical care and demands significant healthcare resources, the researchers said.

In the study, researchers looked at hospital records for babies born in California between 2006 and 2007 following the use of fertility treatments involving the manipulation of both eggs and sperm, primarily IVF. According to the Centers for Disease Control, California has the highest rate of IVF usage in the United States.

They took into account the mother’s age, race, the number of times she had previously given birth, the infant’s gender and year of birth, whether the infant was part of a multiple birth (twins, triplets, etc.) and the presence of major birth defects.

Among the 4,795 infants born after IVF and 46,025 infants naturally conceived, the researchers identified 3,463 infants with major birth defects.

They found that birth defects were significantly increased for infants born after IVF – 9 percent versus 6.6 percent for naturally conceived infants – even after controlling for maternal factors.

Specifically, they noted that malformations of the eye (0.3 percent versus 0.2 percent), heart (5 percent versus 3 percent), and genitourinary system (1.5 percent versus 1 percent) were greater in IVF infants.

Overall, the odds of infants conceived through IVF having birth defects were 1.25 times greater than those of naturally conceived infants with similar maternal characteristics.

“Our findings included a significant association between the use of assisted reproductive technology, such as certain types of in vitro fertilization, and an increased risk of birth defects,” said study leader Lorraine Kelley-Quon, MD, a general surgery resident at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, who conducted the research at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

The researchers also reviewed data on infants born following fertility treatments that do not involve the manipulation of both eggs and sperm, such as artificial insemination and ovulation induction. They found that the risk of birth defects for these infants was not significantly more than for naturally conceived children.

“For parents considering in vitro fertilization or other forms of assisted reproductive technology, it is important that they understand and discuss with their doctor the potential risks of the procedure before making a decision,” said Dr. Kelley-Quon.

A video of Dr. Kelley-Quon’s presentation is available here.