in vitro fertilisation (ivf)

Are IVF Babies as Normal as Others?

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IVF is safe and babies born from IVF grow into healthy adults as normal babies. IVF is used due to various infertility conditions. Enhance your understanding about its necessity, risk of multiple pregnancies, comparative birthweight and differences associated with babies born through IVF.

IVF is a process where mature eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries and fertilized by a sperm in a lab. The fertilized egg or eggs are implanted in the uterus. One cycle of IVF takes about two weeks. The chances of having a normal baby using IVF depend on many factors, such as age and the cause of infertility. If more than one embryo is implanted in the uterus, IVF can result in a pregnancy with more than one fetus (multiple pregnancies). Around 6.5 million children are born every year through IVF and similar techniques but we are only just starting to learn about the long-term health of people conceived using assisted reproduction techniques (ART), who may have a normal growth or a higher risk of obesity in later life. Many people are skeptical about IVF babies being as normal as the ones who are born naturally. IVF babies are as normal as other children as far as their physical attributes and mental capacity are concerned.

Need for IVF (In vitro Fertilization)

Many couples opt for In vitro Fertilization (IVF) when all the options of conceiving fail. It is a treatment for couples with infertility or genetic problems. Sometimes, IVF may be offered as a primary treatment for infertility in women over age 40 years. IVF can also be preferred if there are certain health conditions. IVF may be an option because of the following reasons:

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tube makes it difficult for fertilization of an egg or for an embryo to travel to the uterus.
  • If a woman suffers from ovulation disorders, fewer eggs are available for fertilization.
  • Premature ovarian failure is the inability of the ovaries to produce normal amounts of the hormone estrogen or have eggs to release regularly. It is a loss of normal ovarian function before age of 40.
  • Endometriosis occurs when the uterine tissue implants and grows on the other pelvic organs such as fallopian tube or ovaries.
  • Uterine fibroids are common among women in their 30s and 40s. These are benign tumors in the wall of the uterus and can interfere with implantation of the fertilized egg.
  • IVF can be an option if a woman had tubal sterilization before. Tubal ligation is a type of sterilization in which the fallopian tubes are blocked or removed to permanently prevent pregnancy.
  • When there is impaired sperm production, below-average sperm concentration, poor mobility of sperm, or abnormalities in sperm size and shape, it can cause difficulty in the fertilization of an egg.
  • When there is no cause of infertility despite evaluation for common causes.
  • IVF may be a good option for those couples with a genetic disorder. If there is a risk of passing on a genetic disorder to the child, they may be a good candidate for preimplantation genetic diagnosis, a procedure that involves IVF. 
  • If a woman is about to start a treatment like radiation or chemotherapy that could harm fertility, IVF for fertility preservation may be an option. The eggs can be fertilized and frozen as embryos for later use.
  • IVF can also be a good option for women whose pregnancy poses a serious health risk.

Need for IVF treatment

IVF risks to mother and baby

Couples with fertility problems are often concerned about risks associated with IVF. In fact, some IVF risks are reduced and some are inherent. A woman who needs IVF for a particular condition may have a higher risk pregnancy in any case. There is no clear evidence that IVF babies are more at risk from abnormalities than those born through natural conception. Also, there is no clear evidence that women undertaking IVF are at higher risk of certain cancers. Certain types of abnormality like chromosome problems are less common with IVF. However, IVF babies tend to have more problems at birth, and this may not be due to IVF. It may be because women who conceive through IVF are more likely to be at high-risk in pregnancy. 

Birthweight of IVF Babies

The risk of an abnormal baby with IVF is low although it is much less clear whether IVF contributes a long-term risk. IVF babies tend to be smaller than average, for example, babies with a birth weight of less than 2 kg are more likely to develop stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis at a slightly younger age. This may occur because of Epigenetics, a condition where the genes are affected because of the difference in the environment in the womb and at the time of conception. The percentage of babies born at a normal weight through IVF is 10 percent for gestational age. Babies that are large for gestational age are more likely to be born to mothers with high body mass index or to women who had previously given birth.

birth weight of IVF babies

Risk of multiple births (Triplets) with IVF

When more than one embryo is transferred to the uterus, there is a risk of multiple pregnancies. Multiples are more likely to have birth defects, around one in every 24 babies born as multiples can be stillborn and one in 13 can be seriously handicapped. Most of the multiple births have been conceived following assisted reproductive treatments. Triplets virtually never go to term, if they survive pregnancy at all, they are born six to eight weeks prematurely.

Difference between IVF and Natural conception

The only difference between IVF and natural process is that in case of IVF, eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries and fertilized with sperms in the lab under the supervision of seasoned doctors. The fusion takes place in the test tube instead of a fallopian tube. This fertilized egg is known as an embryo which can be frozen for storage or transferred to a woman’s uterus. Once the embryo is transferred into the uterus, the woman gets pregnant and gives birth to a child after the stipulated time.

IVF Babies are Normal

It is true that in IVF, the doctor inserts the embryo directly into the uterus of women through the cervix, the process of women getting pregnant hereafter is as normal as it happens in case of a normal pregnancy.

Nothing is certain but most IVF babies have a similar quality of life to non-IVF children of the same age. They have a normal body mass index and history of pubertal development. Their educational outcomes and completion of tertiary education are similar to children conceived normally.

Most IVF children grow into healthy young adults with a quality of life and educational achievement comparable to those of their non-IVF conceived peers. There is no reason why an IVF baby should not play cricket for the national team or win a Nobel prize. The risk of problems with IVF remains small and most of the problems appear to be associated with certain infertility procedures.

Find out the best IVF treatment centers through Elawoman. Book an appointment by calling us at +91-7899912611.

Dr. Dipika Dhingra

About The Author

Ultrasonographer, Laparoscopic Surgeon Dr. Dipika Dhingra
Gurgaon

Dr. Dipika Dhingra is an infertility specialist who specializes in Hysteroscopy, Laparoscopy, Vulvoscopy, PCOD treatment and Male Sexual Problems. Dr. Dipika completed MBBS from Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College in 2001 and then pursued MD in Obstetrics and Gynecology from Grant Medical College and Sir JJ Hospital, Mumbai in the year 2005. Later, she pursued DNB from National Board of Examinations, Delhi in 2005. Dr. Dipika is a member of Association of Gynecologists of Delhi, National Academy of Medical Sciences and Gurgaon Obstetrics and Gynecological Society. Presently, Dr. Dipika is practicing at Jeewan Multispeciality Centre and Columbia Asia Hospital. For further information, visit elawoman.com

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Manajith Trusha

Dec. 10, 2018, 3:48 p.m. 4.5

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