May 8, 2012 — A new study published in the May 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine has found that babies are more likely to have birth defects when they are born to couples who use fertility treatments.
The researchers specifically linked maternal use of Clomid to a three-fold increased risk studyof birth defects. The authors of the study found that couples who struggled for at least a year to get pregnant naturally were 40% more likely to have a baby with a birth defect.
The estimated risk of having a baby with a birth defect after fertility treatments was 8.3%, compared with 5.8% of babies whose parents did not use a fertility treatment. The overall risk of birth defects was 28% higher when the parents used any type of assistive reproductive technology.
The risk is significantly greater for women who used Clomid to improve their chances of getting pregnant. The study found that women who used Clomid independently, without medical supervision, were three times more likely to have a baby with a birth defect.
The researchers based their conclusions on an analysis of data from clinics in South Australia, gathered over 16 years (between 1986 and 2002). It was the largest study that has ever been conducted to investigate the link between fertility treatments and birth defects. The study relied on data from 300,000 live births, including 18,000 babies who had a birth defect.
The researchers declined to comment on which birth defects were specifically associated with the fertility treatments, because this information will be included in an upcoming publication. The birth defects noted in the study were described as “cardiovascular, muscoloskeletal, urogenital, gastrointestinal abnormalities and cerebral palsy.”
The study concluded by noting that even though fertility treatments are associated with a higher risk of birth defects, the risk could be due to some underlying factor. It is plausible that a couple who has problems conceiving naturally might have a biological disorder that would increase the risk of birth defects once they do conceive.