IVF treatments have become quite the rage with lakhs of IVF babies born every year from Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Couples around the world find their dreams coming true when they successfully conceive and give birth to a healthy baby. Top IVF experts claim that the success rates of IVF cycles range anywhere between 30% to 35% and most couples if not successful on the first try, do conceive on the second or third attempts. Thus, with success stories from every corner of the world, ART treatments like IVF, ICSI, and artificial insemination are the preferred choices for hopeful couples.
IVF treatments in the best IVF clinics in India usually include harvesting eggs from the uterus of the female and combining it with the male sperm in a laboratory. The embryo thus formed, undergoes culturing for 3-6 days, after which it is inserted back into the woman’s uterus. To increase the chances of success, certain hormones like FSH( Follicle Stimulating Hormone) are injected into the woman to increase the production of good quality eggs. Women are also given a host of fertility medication to smoothen the entire process. And then hopefully, if all goes well, the pregnancy results in a safe delivery.
However, as successful and loved as IVF treatments are with aspiring parents, there are a few anomalies or risk factors that have been mulled upon by scientists for many years. Studies show that babies born through IVF run a higher risk of being born pre-term and are weaker than babies conceived normally.
In a research conducted in Helsinki, it was found that out of the sample of IVF newborns that were examined, 80% were within the normal weight range, 10% were smaller for their gestational age, while the remaining 10% were heavier for their gestational age. What was more surprising was the fact that a direct correlation was found between the weight of the baby and the number of days its embryo underwent culturing in the labs. IVF Babies whose embryos were cultured just for 2-3 days were smaller than those whose embryos were cultured for 5-6 days. Both of these cases were a little alarming as smaller newborn babies are at risk of developing complications like neurological disabilities or even low blood sugar, whereas babies born heavier than normal could suffer from cardiovascular diseases and stand a higher risk of developing obesity.
Another study in Japan supported these findings as IVF babies born heavier than their normally conceived counterparts, were found to reflect the same trend even in later years, thus confirming the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
However, most of the existing hypothesis and research is all based on the problems these babies may develop in later stages of their life. Hence, nothing can be confirmed as to whether this hypothesis is true. The first ever test tube baby, a British woman called Louise Brown who was conceived in 1978 is barely 40 years old. It remains to be seen what kinds of illnesses, if any, she develops in later years of her life.
It is also said that many of these potential future diseases could hinge on the fact that the embryos are developed and cultured for up to 5 days in a lab which could cause epigenetic differences. Apparently, when an embryo is developed in the womb, it undergoes some kind of genetic imprinting based on its surroundings. As with IVF, the surroundings are different than those inside of a womb, it could cause changes in genetic imprinting, i.e. epigenetic differences. Such differences are liable to cause certain abnormalities that could have effects even across future generations.
Scientists argue that by introducing IVF, we are eliminating the stage of natural selection that happens in normal pregnancies. Usually, out of thousands of sperms, only the fittest and the strongest can permeate the egg and fertilize it, thus choosing the best of the sperms to form the embryo, and minimizing the chances of abnormalities and health issues. On the other hand, in an IVF cycle, an IVF expert randomly chooses the sperm and eggs and cultures them in a lab which relatively increases the risk of future problems.
A lot of potential future illnesses could possibly be a result of inherent infertility in the parents. The same problems or health conditions that caused infertility or the medicines taken to counteract them can cause similar health conditions in the child too.
Therefore, it is imperative that you consult experts from the best IVF clinics in India to consider all your options and take the decision best suited to your case. Although there is a lot of hypothesis and research which predicts that there may be certain problems with IVF babies in the later stages, there is no solid proof as yet. That is something we’ll only understand when some of the oldest IVF babies, who are now adults reach a certain age. Till then, if you constantly consult a fertility expert, take the necessary precautions, and deliver a healthy IVF baby, you have nothing to worry about.