Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

No Long-Term Health Effects from Assisted Reproduction

Australians born through assisted reproduction are as healthy as people conceived naturally, according to a study published in Fertility and Sterility (http://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2019.03.001).

Lead author Prof Jane Halliday of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute said researchers compared 193 people aged 22–35 years born using assisted reproduction technology with local age-matched controls. The participants were among the first Australians to be born through assisted reproduction technology and some of the first assisted reproduction babies in the world.

Physical assessments included measuring carotid artery thickness, blood pressure, overall body dimensions, respiratory function, lipid profiles, free fatty acids, blood glucose and insulin levels. “The study showed there is no evidence of increased vascular or cardiometabolic risk such as heart disease and diabetes, growth or respiratory or well-being problems in this assisted reproduction technology group,” she said.

However, adults born through one type of assisted reproduction technology, in vitro fertilisation, did better than the control group on many quality-of-life indicators. They felt better about their finances, safety, environment and housing than the control group. “This suggests that they are relatively socio-economically advantaged,” Halliday said. “Also, their psychosocial adjustment may be positively influenced by being born to parents who seek IVF to achieve parenthood.”

There were no major differences in the clinical assessments even when taking into account factors such as birth weight differences and the higher quality-of-life measure observed in the assisted reproduction technology group. One minor difference was in diastolic blood pressure, which was slightly lower in assisted reproduction technology males than in naturally conceived males.

While the assisted reproduction technology group had a higher self-reported prevalence of ever having asthma or breathing problems, the physical respiratory assessments found no significant differences between the two groups.

More than 200,000 babies have been born with the help of assisted reproduction technology since the first Australian IVF baby was born in 1980. “One in every 25 Australian babies are now born via assisted reproduction technology. That means there is one in every classroom,” Halliday said.

“Given the strong uptake of assisted reproduction technology, studies into the technology’s potential long-term health outcomes are vital.”