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What You Should Know About IVF and Infant Mortality

June 17, 2020
Kylie Manuppelli

Recent research regarding children conceived via assisted reproductive techniques, which includes in-vitro fertilization (IVF), has uncovered some interesting statistics in terms of infant mortality rates. In this article, we will summarize this research and answer the following questions:

  • What risks does conceiving a child through IVF pose?
  • What is the reason behind increased infant mortality in IVF-conceived children?
  • What are the future implications of this research?

What Risks Does Conceiving a Child Through IVF Pose?

A recent study found that compared to children conceived naturally, children conceived via assisted reproductive methods like IVF have a higher mortality rate in the first few weeks of life. Researchers in Sweden looked at data on 2.8 million children in total, which included both naturally-conceived children as well as children conceived through assisted reproductive methods. After controlling for factors like the mother’s age and early infertility, the results showed that IVF-conceived children had a 45 percent higher risk of death before the first year of life relative to the naturally-conceived children. They found that this risk did decline after the first few weeks of life. It is important to note, however, that even though there was a trend of a somewhat higher mortality rate, the researchers acknowledge that the risk for each individual is still quite small.  

When looking specifically at children conceived after a frozen embryo transfer, the risk of death in the first week of life was twice as high compared to naturally-conceived children. However, the researchers noted that this sample size was very small, and that this difference in risk was diminished after the first week. 

What is the Reason Behind Increased Infant Mortality In IVF-Conceived Children?

The researchers who conducted this study felt that the increased rates of infant mortality that they observed in IVF-conceived children relative to naturally-conceived children was likely due to the increased instances of premature births that occur with IVF-conceived children. Premature births can have both short and long-term complications that can pose a major threat to the child’s health, and it is important to remember that premature birth can affect IVF-conceived and naturally-conceived children alike. It was also noted that the infertility itself can result in a higher risk of complications.

A newborn baby is grasping onto an adult's finger.
It is thought that the reason behind higher infant mortality rates in IVF-conceived children is the link between assisted reproductive techniques and chance of premature birth. With an increased chance of premature birth in IVF-conceived children, there are health risks that can increase mortality rates in the early stages of life.  

What Are the Future Implications of This Research?

Because the researchers found that the method of assisted reproduction mattered, they suggested that future research should definitely look further into the mechanisms behind the differing risks. When thinking about IVF as a method for conceiving children, the research provides evidence that there is a need for special attention and care of these infants. 

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