Study question: Does extended culture to the blastocyst stage affect singleton birthweight after either fresh or vitrified-warmed embryo transfer?
Summary answer: Singleton birthweight z-scores did not vary significantly after a fresh blastocyst transfer, whereas the additional effect of vitrification remains inconclusive.
What is known already: Observational studies have associated extended culture with an increased risk of preterm birth and low birthweight. On the contrary, in terms of birthweight and gestational age, singletons born after vitrification have been associated with a better perinatal outcome when compared to those born following a fresh transfer.
Study design, size, duration: Our post-hoc cohort analysis on neonatal outcomes included 447 liveborn singletons was derived from a recent retrospective analysis on cumulative live birth rates after cleavage-stage and blastocyst transfers. These babies were born following a fresh single cleavage-stage transfer (FCT Day 3, n = 113), fresh single blastocyst transfer (FBT Day 5, n = 218), vitrified-warmed cleavage-stage transfer (VCT Day 3, n = 58) or vitrified-warmed blastocyst transfer (VBT Day 5, n = 58).
Participants/materials, setting, methods: Singleton birthweight was the primary outcome measure. Gestational age and gender of the newborn were accounted for by using birthweight z-scores in a multivariable linear regression analysis, adjusting for other confounders (maternal age, BMI, parity and smoking behaviour). Vanishing twins were excluded from the analysis.
Main results and the role of chance: A significantly lower z-score was observed after blastocyst transfer compared to cleavage-stage transfer in the vitrified-warmed Day 5 group (P = 0.013), a difference not observed in the fresh transfer groups (P = 0.32). Following multivariable regression analysis [adjusted regression coefficient (95% confidence interval)], the FCT and FBT groups showed no significant influence on the birthweight z-scores after fresh transfer [-0.19 (-0.44; 0.05)], but the transfer of vitrified blastocysts (VBT) was associated with a lower birthweight [-0.52 (-0.90; -0.15)] compared with the transfer of vitrified cleavage-stage embryos (VCT).
Limitations, reasons for caution: The present cohort was relatively small, especially in the vitrified-warmed subgroups. Pregnancy-associated factors possibly influencing birthweight (such as diabetes, hypertension, pre-eclampsia) were also not accounted for in the analysis.
Wider implications of the findings: Different ART procedures, including extended culture and vitrification, may hold potential safety issues. These results require further confirmation in future larger studies.
Study funding/competing interest(s): None.
Trial registration number: N/A.
Keywords: birthweight; blastocyst transfer; cleavage-stage transfer; neonatal outcome; vitrification.
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