The new research also raises questions about whether couples seeking IVF treatments should receive additional pre-conception counseling and whether the fetus should be monitored more closely if they are able to conceive.
"Nobody can assure a perfect baby," said Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, senior vice president for research and global programs at the March of Dimes, and president of the International Federation of Fertility Societies. He said couples considering IVF need to discuss the topic and their health histories thoroughly with their doctors.
"Couples need to be informed about the risks, but I don't think it is going to change their desire to have children," he said.
Struggling with infertility and seeking treatments can be emotionally and logistically challenging, and the study results should not cause more stress for couples, said Kelley-Quon.
"They should be reassured that there are tens of thousands of infants born each year after IVF who are perfectly healthy," she said. "The purpose of our research was to highlight an interesting association between IVF and birth defects. Our results do not prove that IVF causes birth defects."
While this study showed an association between IVF treatments and birth defects, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more on IVF, go to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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