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IVF babies at risk for stillbirths?

Women who get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) may be much more likely to have stillbirths, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The study, published by the journal Human Reproduction, involved 20,166 Dutch women who became pregnant for the first time with one fetus. That total included 16,525 who got pregnant naturally after less than 12 months of trying, 2,020 who got pregnant naturally after more than a year of trying, 879 who conceived after infertility treatment that did not involve IVF and 742 who conceived through IVF.

The risk of stillbirth in women who conceived with IVF was 16.2 per thousand, compared to 2.3 per thousand among those who conceived with other forms of infertility treatment, 3.7 per thousand who got pregnant naturally within a year and 5.4 per thousand who became pregnant naturally after more than a year of trying.

That was the case after taking into consideration other factors that may have contributed to the stillbirths, such as age, weight, smoking, drinking, coffee intake and education, the researchers said.

But the researchers say more research will be needed to determine whether there's something about the IVF procedure itself that is to blame and, if so, what that might be.

In fact, Karl Nygren of the Sofiahammet Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, and his colleagues reported that they were unable to confirm the findings when they studied 27,386 women who underwent IVF between 1982 and 2006. While in the earlier years, there was a slightly elevated risk of stillbirths, it was not statistically significant and during the later years it was actually lower, Nygren said.

Kirsten Wisborg, who led the Dutch study, says there may have been differences between the women in the two studies that would explain the discrepancy in the findings. But in either case, it's clear that the overall risk of stillbirth is still very low.

By Rob Stein  |  February 24, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
Categories:  Medical Technology , Motherhood , Women's Health  
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