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IVF is now as safe as natural conception

13th Feb 2015

Having children by fertility treatment is now as safe as natural conception following a fall in the rate of stillbirths,

according to new research. ‘Test-tube’ babies now have almost the same chance of

surviving as those conceived naturally due to improved techniques and regulations.

A large research study done in Copenhagen has just been published, where they studied the health

of 92,000 babies born through fertility treatment between 1988 and 2007 and compared them with

nearly 500,000 children over the same period. This is the largest study ever done and it showed that

the rate of stillbirth, premature delivery, low birth weight and death in the first year had fallen

dramatically since the late 1980s.

The improvements were largely due to the new regulations that limit the number of embryos that

can be transferred into the woman to avoid multiple births. The approach used to be to implant as

many embryos as possible hoping for success whereas now they are much more selective and most

women have just one embryo implanted.

The world’s first ‘test-tube’ baby Louise Brown was born in 1978 in Oldham Hospital. The success of

the breakthrough was marred by the number of women who lost their babies. In the late 1980s and

the 1990s many IVF babies were born prematurely and a higher percentage of twins born


The latest figures show that the percentages of premature births for IVF babies is comparable to

spontaneously conceived babies, 8% for IVF and 5% for normally conceived. The rate of stillbirth is

the same for both sets at 0.3%.

Although this study was done in Scandinavia the findings are as relevant in the UK. Since 2012 the

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has advised that no more than one embryo should be

transferred in the majority of cases. IVF is now as safe as natural conception



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