Fertility and pregnancy

Risk of stillbirth four times higher after IVF

Zone default image Other factors may also be involved

Women who conceive through IVF are four times more likely to give birth to a stillborn baby, new research has found.

However, the scientists stressed the risk to pregnant women who conceive using in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) was still "very low."

In the study, a team of Danish researchers analysed data on 20,166 first-time births which took place between August 1989 and October 2006.

Of these, 82% were conceived spontaneously within 12 months, 10% after more than a year of trying, 4% were conceived through non-IVF fertility treatment and 4% conceived through IVF or ICSI.

The risk of stillbirth in women was found to be 16.2 per thousand in women who conceived through IVF/ICSI; 2.3 per thousand who conceived after non-IVF treatment; 3.7 per thousand in fertile women and 5.4 per thousand in women who took more than a year to conceive, described as sub-fertile.

The findings, published in the journal Human Reproduction, showed women who conceived through IVF/ICSI were four times more likely to have a stillborn child.

Study leader Dr Kirsten Wisborg, a consultant at Aarhus University Hospital, said: “It is important to remember that the risk of stillbirth is still very low among women pregnant after IVF/ICSI.

“Until now, there has been speculation that the increased risk of adverse outcomes, such as stillbirths, in assisted reproduction might be due to factors related to the underlying infertility of the couples.

"However, we found the risk was similar between sub-fertile couples, women who had conceived after non-IVF fertility treatment and fertile couples."

This suggested that the increased risk of stillbirth was due to IVF/ICSI rather than problems related to infertility alone. However, she also added that other unidentified factors related to the infertile couples may also be involved.

This article was published on Wed 24 February 2010

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