New evidence now confirms suspicions that babies resulting from in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) have more birth defects than ordinary babies.
According to a Swedish study, children born after IVF have three times the rate of cerebral palsy compared with children in the general population.
This greater risk of cerebral palsy was found not only among children from twin and higher multiple IVF pregnancies, but also among singleton IVF infants born at term with a normal birthweight.
Usually, around two in every 1000 babies are born with cerebral palsy (Clin Dev Med, 2000; 151: 67-83). However, in this study, the number of cases of cerebral palsy among the controls was less than expected.
Nevertheless, if the high rate of cerebral palsy found in this study is a true result, then the question to ask is whether it is due to something in the IVF process or whether the state of infertility itself is a causal factor.
The study findings concur with the recent message from the US medical establishment, which pleaded for reduction of twin and higher multiple pregnancies from a single embryo to minimise the short- and long-term damage to mothers (Lancet, 2002; 359: 459-60, 461-5).