Are children born after assisted reproductive technology at increased risk for adverse health outcomes?

Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Jun;103(6):1154-63. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000124571.04890.67.


As assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are increasingly used to overcome infertility, there is concern about the health of the children conceived. The empirical evidence for associations with outcomes related to child health is variable and should be evaluated with consideration of methodological shortcomings. Currently, there is convincing evidence that ART treatment may increase the risk of a few outcomes. Experimental laboratory studies document that various constituents in culture media affect various embryo characteristics both positively and negatively. Multiple-gestation pregnancy and birth are increased with ART, both because of multiple embryo transfer and embryo splitting. There is evidence of an increase in chromosomal abnormalities among pregnancies conceived using intracytoplasmic sperm injection and low birth weight and preterm delivery among singletons conceived with all types of ART; however, there remains uncertainty about whether these risks stem from the treatment or the parental infertility. For some outcomes, data of an increased risk with ART are suggestive at best largely because of lack of purposeful study of sufficient size and scope. These include specific perinatal morbidities, birth defects, developmental disabilities, and retinoblastoma. The evidence for an association between ART and spontaneous abortion is inconsistent and weak. There is inconclusive evidence that ART may be associated with genetic imprinting disorders. For childhood cancer, chronic conditions, learning and behavioral disorders, and reproductive effects there is insufficient empirical research to date, but given the data for more proximal outcomes, these outcomes merit further study. Future research needs to address the unique methodological challenges underlying study in this area.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromosome Aberrations
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Genomic Imprinting
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Multiple
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors