How ‘normal’ are IVF babies?Dr Asha S Vijay
IVF is a relatively new technology when compared to other medical sciences and there are many questions regarding it. This is understandable because it involves a primaeval quest of humans, to procreate and continue the lineage of mankind.
IVF is Assisted Reproductive Technology and not Artificial Reproductive Technology.
While it is true that in IVF, the doctor inserts the embryo into the uterus of the woman through the cervix, the process of her getting pregnant thereafter is as normal as it happens in the case of sexual intercourse between partners. So IVF is not artificial, it is just an assisted process. There is nothing ‘artificial’ about IVF.
Are IVF babies normal?
To answer the question of normalcy in children born from IVF, a study from Israel managed to take a deep and unique look at young adults serving in the army who was born through IVF.
They assessed each person’s medical and mental health, along with cognitive ability, which was available with the military. In total, 253 adolescents aged 16 to 20 were compared with very similar, naturally conceived persons from the military. Of the IVF children, 158 were singletons, and 95 were part of multiple deliveries. (twins, triplets)
What was tracked?
Medical and psychiatric diagnoses recorded in profiles, including blood pressure, diabetes, renal disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, GI disorders, asthma, anxiety disorders, and even migraines were tracked. They also measured psychological features through IQ testing. Finally, all medical appointments throughout military service were recorded.
On just about every single parameter, there were no meaningful differences. Great news for those considering IVF!
What you need to know
There is a higher chance of multiple pregnancies in IVF when compared to normal conception. This is because the norm is to transfer more than one embryo to mitigate the risk of implantation failure. By itself, this is not a big disadvantage, but twin babies tend to be born earlier than singletons, may have lower weight, and may be smaller.
Whilst the risk of an abnormal baby after IVF is low (apart from the issues related to multiple births), it is much less clear whether IVF contributes a long-term risk. For example, IVF babies tend to be smaller than average but this difference in weight and height is made up within the first 1 year
A lot depends on the clinic that you’ve chosen for the IVF procedure and whether the doctors are capable enough to perform one without any complications. There are many factors that play a role in the IVF success rate:
Age of the genetic parents: The age of the biological parents has the biggest role in the success of an IVF cycle. Beyond the age of 35 or 37 years, a woman’s fertility declines and the incidence of genetic abnormalities like Down’s syndrome rises significantly. For men too, age matters as it affects the sperm’s DNA integrity, but to a lesser extent.
The protocols of IVF: IVF protocols and monitoring during the IVF cycle also contribute greatly to its success. Diligent monitoring by trained specialists is necessary to make mid-course adjustments to the treatment protocol and avoid potential complications.
Previous pregnancy: If you have had one or more previous successful pregnancies with the same partner, then your current IVF process is better poised to yield the right results. Recurrent miscarriages lower your chances.
Egg quality and age of donor: Factors such as egg quality and age of donor are important. Using donor eggs from younger women may increase the chances of pregnancy for women over 40.
The fact that cognitive function and just about every health indicator from visual sense to asthma did not show meaningful differences is a big positive for those considering long-term implications of babies born from IVF. From a parent’s perspective, one thing is sure. Instilling a sense of a healthy lifestyle is most important in children and keeping a medical track helps avoid dangers.
The standard success rate in IVF across the world is about 40%. At GarbhaGudi, we are consistently able to achieve more than 67% success rates. In cases where the woman’s age is less than 32, the success rates are even higher – close to 70%.
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