Birth defects and congenital health risks in children conceived through assisted reproduction technology (ART): a meeting report
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Assisted Reproduction Treatment (ART) is here to stay. This review addresses the parental background of birth defects, before, during and after conception and focuses both on the underlying subfertility and on the question whether ART as a treatment is an additional contributing factor.
Searches were performed in Medline and other databases. Summaries were discussed in a Delphi panel set-up by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).
Several birth defects and adult diseases arise during the earliest stages of ovarian development and oocyte differentiation: this is the case of cleft palate disorders in offspring from female rat exposed to Dioxin during fetal life or the polycystic ovary diseases in female offspring (primates) exposed to elevated androgen concentration during fetal life. Human oocytes and embryos often fail to stop the propagation of aneuploid cells but maintain their ability to repair DNA damages including those introduced by the fertilizing sperm. There is a 29 % increased risk of birth defects in the newborns spontaneously conceived by subfertile couples and the risk is further increased (34 %) when conception is achieved by treating infertlity with ART (Danish IVF Registry). Periconceptional conditions are critical for ART babies: their birth weight is in general smaller (Norvegian Registry) but a more prolonged culture time doubled the number of large babies (Finnish Registry).
The long-term developmental effects of ART on child and subsequent health as an adult remains a subject worthy of futher monitoring and investigation.