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Can assisted reproduction lower birth defects for older mothers?

Research from the University of Adelaide suggests that babies born to women aged 40 and over from assisted reproduction have fewer birth defects compared with those from women who conceive naturally at the same age. Published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.14365) the research, led by Professor Michael Davies from the Robinson Research Institute, was based on data of all live births recorded in South Australia from 1986-2002, including more than 301 000 naturally conceived births, as well as 2200 births from in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and almost 1400 from intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The average prevalence of a birth defect was 5.7% among naturally conceived births, 7.1% for the IVF births, and 9.9% for the ICSI births, across all age groups. In births from assisted reproduction, the prevalence of birth defects ranged from 11.3% at its highest for women less than age 30 using ICSI, down to 3.6% for women aged 40 and older using IVF. For natural conceptions, the corresponding prevalence across age groups was 5.6% in young women, increasing to 8.2% in women aged over 40 years. “There is some aspect of IVF treatment in particular that could be helping older women to redress the maternal age issues we see among natural conception,…