This is an extremely important and profound question because in addition to becoming pregnant, that pregnancy needs to lead to a healthy, thriving child. The question of how healthy a pregnancy and child conceived with IVF has been the subject of many studies. These studies have results that (at-first-glance) seem scary, but a critical-view leads to a much calmer outlook. A tiny difference can easily be made to look like a terrible danger.
Birth Defect Risk
Let us first tackle what effects IVF could have on birth outcomes. These include birth defect risk and pregnancy outcomes. As far as birth defects, there is a very small association with certain genetic abnormalities and with heart issues. These birth defects are also more commonly seen in patients with infertility due to sperm production. That being said, these studies are not perfect and are subject to bias. While they MAY show a link, this is no way proof.
Concerning overall birth outcomes, pregnancies conceived with IVF are associated with a slightly higher risk of pre-term birth. Meaning a birth before 37 weeks. In addition, lower birth weights have also been associated with IVF pregnancies. However, an easily missed difference must be noted. While the percentage for these outcomes is higher for IVF, the ABSOLUTE percentage change is very small, often a fraction of a percent. IVF pregnancies have also been attributed with a higher risk of elevated blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in pregnancy, yet the ABSOLUTE percentage is 4.7% for non-IVF pregnancies and 5.9% in IVF pregnancies. The difference is a tiny 1.2%.
Physical and Mental Health
Next on our list are long term physical and mental health outcomes. Overall, no clear risk has been conclusively identified for either. As far as physical outcomes, a recent study looking at over 158,000 children saw minimal-to-no difference in growth, weight, and fat percentage over time. A similar picture arises when looking at mental development. Several studies using data from Scandinavian countries, when the data was carefully analyzed, showed no increased risk for autism or delayed mental development. One Israeli study looking at reasoning ability and verbal skills showed no difference between the children conceived with IVF and naturally-conceived children.
What’s the bottom line?
The vast majority of pregnancies conceived using IVF are just as healthy as those from natural conception. Furthermore, the children coming from IVF pregnancies are just as smart and physically fit as their naturally-conceived counterparts.