Babies born through assisted reproduction are getting healthier, study says

A massive, multi-year study of babies conceived through artificial means has produced encouraging news: During the last 20 years, they have become healthier as their rates of premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth and infant death have all decreased.

The study, "Trends in perinatal health after assisted reproduction," published Jan. 20 in Human Reproduction, an Oxford University Press journal, suggested that the increasingly common practice of implanting only one embryo, rather than multiple embryos, has contributed toward the improved health results.

Researchers examined the health of more than 92,000 babies conceived with assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in four Scandinavian countries - Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden - between 1988 and 2007. About a third of the babies were twins and two-thirds were "singletons."

Assisted reproductive technologies include:

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF) - an egg and sperm are combined in a laboratory and the resulting embryo is implanted in the woman's uterus
  • ICSI - a variation on IVF in which an egg has a single sperm injected directly into it
  • Donation - eggs, sperm or embryos
  • Surrogacy - an embryo is implanted in a woman who carries it to term

Dr. Paula Amato, an Oregon Health and Science University expert in reproductive endocrinology and fertility, called the Scandinavian study "good news for patients and for us that work in the field."

"It's overall a very reassuring study," she said.

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