IVF ICSI riskA study has found that 300,000 babies born using an IVF fertility treatment for men with low sperm counts
had a higher risk of abnormalities than those conceived naturally.
The IVF treatment is Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is a process whereby a single sperm is injected into the egg to be fertilized.Babies conceived in this way were more likely to suffer abnormalities.
No link established
However, researchers were unable to establish if this was because the technique itself increases the risks of abnormality in children, or because men suffering from sperm damage (and so a low sperm count) were more likely to pass on anomalies to their children. ICSI is used in around half of all fertility treatments in the UK.
The research also found traditional IVF did not significantly increase the risk of defects. In traditional IVF, sperm and eggs are mixed in a dish and sperm fertilizes the egg on its own.
Birth defects figures
The research, led by the Robson Institute at the University of Adelaide and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, examined 309,000 births in South Australia. Of these, 1,878 involved ICSI. The study found the risk of a birth defect was 5.8 per cent for natural conception, compared with 7.2 per cent following conventional IVF, and 9.9 per cent after ICSI.