The results of a large Australian observational study suggest that intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is linked to an increased risk of birth defects compared with spontaneous conception.

The study analysed outcomes from 308,974 births, which included 6,163 involving assisted reproductive technology (ART).

Overall, 8.3% of children born using ART had some type of birth defect, compared with 5.8% of those conceived naturally, although this increased risk was not significant after adjustment for parental factors such as smoking during pregnancy and maternal age.

ICSI, specifically, was associated with a 57% increased risk of birth defects and this increase persisted after adjustment for maternal age and several other risk factors.

A history of infertility, either with or without assisted conception, was also significantly associated with birth defects. (Reproductive technologies and the risk of birth defects. N Engl J Med. 2012 May 10;366(19):1803-13).

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