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Overrepresentation of pregnancies conceived by artificial reproductive technology in prenatally identified fetuses with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome



In vitro fertilization (IVF) has been linked to an increased risk for imprinting disorders in offspring. The data so far have predominantly been retrospective, comparing the rate of IVF conceptions in affected patients with controls. We describe a series of fetuses with omphalocele that were tested for Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) and subsequently ascertained as to whether pregnancies were conceived by assisted reproductive technologies (ART).


Fetuses were tested for BWS by Southern blot, PCR based methods, and methylation analysis to identify the imprinting status at primarily the IC2 locus, KCNQ1OT1, as well as IC1, H19/IGF-2. Some fetuses were also tested for uniparental disomy of chromosome 11p.


We tested 301 fetuses with omphalocele for BWS. Forty samples were positive. Sixteen were from IVF pregnancies, for an overall rate of 40%. Such as high proportion of IVF pregnancies in a series of BWS-positive fetuses has not been described previously. Possible factors such as twinning and ascertainment bias are discussed.


We found about a 20-fold overrepresentation of IVF cases in fetuses with BWS/omphalocele when compared with the rate of ART pregnancies in the USA (p < .0001). Our series provides support for an association of IVF and BWS. Patients should be counseled about these risks and made aware of the availability of prenatal diagnosis for detection.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Abdallah F. Elias.

Additional information

The work reported here is the result of routine provision of medical attention at the standard of care, with data collected solely for patient care purposes. No additional data were collected or medical intervention undertaken for the purposes of this study. As such, a Research Involving Human Subjects Committee was not convened.

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Johnson, J.P., Beischel, L., Schwanke, C. et al. Overrepresentation of pregnancies conceived by artificial reproductive technology in prenatally identified fetuses with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. J Assist Reprod Genet 35, 985–992 (2018).

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  • Omphalocele
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • Methylation
  • Imprinting
  • IVF