10 July 2013

Health of children conceived following ICSI

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Queensland Fertility Group

This week a Swedish study on the effects of ICSI (a form of assisted reproductive technology) on the health of children conceived from this treatment was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and received some conflicting media coverage.

Associate Professor Peter Illingworth, Medical Director of IVFAustralia said: “The contradictory nature of the various media stories is unfortunately confusing and worrying for patients. Having read the study in detail I surmise that it confirms what we have known for some time, that there is a small increased risk of health problems for children following assisted reproductive technology compared with children born following natural conception.

"This study in particular reports a small increase in the risk of autistic disorder and mental retardation for children born following ICSI, a specific form of assisted reproductive treatment that is used for couples where the man has an extreme sperm issue. Whether this outcome is due to the treatment i.e the laboratory process itself, or whether it is due to the inherent sperm problem that has led to the couple being unable to conceive naturally and having to use ICSI is unclear. I encourage patients to talk directly with their fertility specialist regarding the health risks for children conceived via assisted reproductive technology – we are well placed to put the risks in perspective for prospective parents – I do not believe the findings of this study should alarm patients undergoing ICSI."

The summary in the study states:

“Compared with spontaneous conception, IVF treatment overall was not associated with autistic disorder but was associated with a small but statistically significantly increased risk of mental retardation. For specific procedures, IVF with ICSI for paternal infertility was associated with a small increase in the RR for autistic disorder and mental retardation compared with IVF without ICSI. The prevalence of these disorders was low, and the increase in absolute risk associated with IVF was small.”

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