An article in the Washington Post detailing one mother’s struggle with infertility documents the safety 0f IVF for mother and child.
One of the biggest concerns has been whether exposure to fertility drugs could cause cancer. A 2013 study of 21,646 women in Australia concluded that “there is no evidence of an increased risk of ovarian cancer following IVF in women who give birth.” Another study of 9,825 American women found no link between gonadotropins — the drugs one takes to increase egg production — and ovarian cancer for women who gave birth. There was one worrisome point: Both studies found an increased cancer risk for women with “resistant infertility” — i.e., those who did not give birth — although the researchers did not know why. Perhaps ther reason for some is a genetic risk which causes both infertility and cancer such as the BRCA gene. Gilda Radner’s support of research after she developed ovarian cancer led to the discovery of this gene.
A recent study in the journal JAMA of about 25,000 women who had fertility treatments between 1980 and 1995 found that those who had gone through IVF had no greater risk of getting breast cancer in the subsequent 21 years than those who used other techniques.
“Numerous studies and opinions from [the American Society for Reproductive Medicine] confirm low risk for ovarian and breast cancer from the use of fertility drugs, regardless of the number of IVF cycles performed,” said Jeffrey Braverman, founder and medical director at Braverman IVF & Reproductive Immunology in New York.
How about child development. A study that followed children conceived with ART into their teenage years offers a reassuring view. The study, published in January, compared 253 16- and 17-year-olds who were conceived with fertility treatments to a cohort of teenagers conceived naturally and found that “no differences were detected in general and mental health of ART adolescents or cognitive ability, compared with the reference group.” The researchers, who said this was the first long-term study of such children, concluded that their “preliminary results provide reassurance that in the long run, health and functioning of ART-conceived adolescents is not compromised.”
There is conflicting information on the chance of congenital abnormalities and developmental disabilities. But this is difficult to analyze in a population in which some of the women are not reproductively normal thus requiring IVF and when the age of the males is higher than in a population which conceivse naturally.
But overall, the news is good.