World's largest study on artificial fertilisation concludes that techniques are safe

July 3, 2003

Brussels, 02 Jul 2003

The most comprehensive study ever undertaken to assess the safety of assisted reproductive techniques has concluded that children conceived through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are healthy and generally doing as well as children conceived naturally.

The project, which received one million euro in EU funding under the quality of life section of the Fifth Framework Programme, involved researchers and children from five EU countries: Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Sweden and the UK. It compared 541 ICSI and 440 IVF children with 542 normally conceived children and followed their progress up to the age of five.

Among the study's key findings was the discovery by researchers that both birth weigh and height at age five were similar between the groups, illnesses were similar, and there were no differences in the results of tests to determine verbal, performance and overall IQ.

The results of the study were presented for the first time in Madrid on 2 July at the annual meeting of the European society of human reproduction and embryology. Speaking from Madrid, project member Professor Christina Bergh from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, said: 'This study is the most comprehensive ever done on IVF and ICSI children. Overall the results are reassuring and lay to rest the fears that have been expressed about the health and welfare of children conceived through IVF and ICSI.'

The researchers did notice a moderately higher rate of malformations among the ICSI children, and analysis of this finding is still ongoing, but the team believes that the apparent increase could be due to selection bias in the group of naturally conceived children.

As well as providing a reassuring assessment of the health impacts of assisted reproductive techniques, the study also revealed that the development of IVF and ICSI children appears unaffected, and that family lives are also normal.

'The results for cognitive and motor development were very reassuring and the evidence was that IVF/ICSI families are coping well. We could not identify any strains in marital or parent-child relationships and there were no additional risks of negative socio-emotional impact for either parents or children,' concluded Professor Bergh.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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