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IVF babies have lower birth weights

1st November 2011

Babies conceived using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and with the help of fertility drugs tend to be smaller than other newborn babies, according to a recent US study.

Baby WardThe researchers found that, in addition to being smaller, such children also had a greater risk of low birth weight, some of them weighing less than 2.5 kilos (5.5lb).

The researchers were not able to understand why the babies' weights and sizes would differ, but believed that the underlying fertility problems which caused mothers to seek IVF could be an important factor.

Lead researcher Amber Cooper, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Washington University in St Louis, said that it was hard to solve the riddle of whether technology or infertility caused the low birth weights.

There are other things that mark IVF-born babies apart from babies who are born without the intervention of a fertility clinic.

For one, mothers who give birth using IVF often give birth to twins.

Other studies have suggested that babies born from IVF may have a low birth weight, but have not been able to state why conclusively.

For the study, the researchers examined 1,700 single-child births from 1,700 women at a single fertility centre.

Out of all the women who came to the fertility centre over a 10-year period, 461 ended up having a baby.

Of those women, 106 were treated with fertility drugs, and 104 were eventually able to give birth naturally, while the rest underwent IVF.

The remaining 1,246 women gave birth naturally.

On average, women who went to fertility clinics for IVF gave birth to babies that weighed a third of a pound less than women who gave birth naturally.

But among the women receiving fertility treatment, the 104 who eventually gave birth without using drugs or treatments also gave birth to low birth-weight babies.

Cooper said her team's findings suggested that underlying fertility problems caused low birth weights.

However, the researchers were not able to find a single cause which may contribute to infertility.

IVF helps women whose fallopian tubes are blocked, or whose husbands have a low sperm count.

Fertility drugs help women whose hormones do not cause them to ovulate, or cause them complications with ovulation.

Cooper said that researchers were still working on making the technology the best it could be, but that even with low birth weights, the benefits of fertility treatments to couples were clear.


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