What are the Long-Term Health Impacts of IVF Conceived Children?

Written by: Dr. Brian Steixner

The global population of children born through assisted reproduction technology (ART) has surpassed 10 million, constituting a significant portion of births in Europe and the US. Over time, best practices in IVF have evolved, prioritizing single embryo transfer to reduce the risk of multiple births and associated complications such as preterm birth. Despite this advancement, babies born after IVF still face higher obstetric and perinatal risks compared to spontaneously conceived peers.

Babies Born After IVF

Studies have shown that babies born after IVF, whether through fresh or frozen embryo transfer (FET), are more likely to experience adverse outcomes such as being small or large for gestational age, low birth weight, preterm birth, and an increased risk of postpartum complications like postpartum hemorrhage and preeclampsia. Additionally, IVF procedures like intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and oocyte donation are associated with specific risks, such as poor semen quality in male progeny and increased risk of babies being born small for gestational age.

Long-Term Monitoring

Long-term health outcomes for IVF-conceived children are still being explored, with emerging evidence suggesting potential risks of blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. Several large databases, such as CoNARTaS in the Nordic countries and MOSART in the US, have been established to monitor the health of IVF-conceived children and their mothers over the long term. These studies should provide more critical information over the coming years.

Health Risks in IVF-Conceived Children

Studies have highlighted various health risks in IVF-conceived children, including cardiometabolic issues, childhood cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, and reproductive health concerns. While some risks, such as those related to cardiovascular health, remain inconclusive, others, like the increased risk of certain cancers in children born after frozen embryo transfer, still need further investigation to determine if they are real concerns.

What are the Long-Term Health Impacts of IVF Conceived Children?

Third-Party Reproduction

Third-party reproduction involving donated eggs or sperm has become increasingly common and presents its own set of health considerations. For instance, sperm donation has been associated with an increased risk of blood pressure disorders of pregnancy, while egg donation has been linked to higher rates of conditions like preeclampsia.

Overall Safety and Future Considerations

Despite these concerns, overall, the long-term health outcomes of children born after IVF appear to be safe and without medical issues. However, ongoing monitoring and research are essential to understand better and mitigate any potential risks associated with IVF procedures. Additionally, efforts to minimize unnecessary IVF interventions and optimize protocols should be prioritized to ensure the safety and well-being of future IVF generations.

Dr. Brian Steixner

Dr. Brian Steixner

Dr. Brian Steixner is a board-certified urologist and an expert in men’s sexual medicine. He completed his General Surgery and Urology training at The University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the busiest and most comprehensive programs in the nation. During his career, Brian has treated thousands of men with sexual health issues including male factor infertility.