Children conceived using IVF and ICSI techniques have the same intellectual and movement abilities as naturally conceived children, a new European study shows. Researchers based at University College Medical School in London tested the developmental skills of around 1000 five-year old children conceived using IVF and ICSI. No differences were found between these children and those conceived naturally, say the scientists, who published their findings in the journal Pediatrics.
ICSI involves taking a single sperm, and injecting it directly into an egg in vitro. Some doctors have expressed fears that the egg may be damaged during the injection process, or by the chemicals used for ICSI. Others are concerned that selecting a single sperm bypasses the usual competition amongst sperm to fertilise the egg. This could lead to fertilisation with a 'substandard' sperm, which would not have succeeded if it had not been injected. But these fears have so far proved unfounded.
In the latest study, the researchers looked at 511 children conceived through ICSI, 424 conceived through IVF and 488 naturally-conceived children living in Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Sweden and the UK. The study did not include any twins, triplets or other multiple births. The team found no significant differences in verbal IQ (intelligence quotient), performance IQ or motor skills between the three groups. 'The results of this study are reassuring for parents who have conceived through ICSI or IVF', say the scientists.
A previous European study, reported in 2003, found no significant differences between the birth weight and height of IVF, ICSI and non-IVF children aged five. There were also no differences in verbal ability, total IQ or behavioural problems between the three groups. And last October, a US panel reported that overall, children conceived by IVF are no more likely to have major health problems than naturally conceived children. The research reviewed 169 previously published studies.
Last November, the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) published a report highlighting the need for 'improved monitoring and evaluation of assisted reproduction technology (ART)'. It recommended a new system to follow up the long term effects of ART, and called for more research into the safety and effectiveness of new and existing ART techniques. Commenting on the launch of the report, working group chair Catherine Peckham said at the time: 'There is widespread evidence that current ART procedures are safe', adding 'however, improved evaluation of the long term effects of ART is important'.
Sources and References
Assisted Reproduction Kids Grow Up Healthy
Fertility Technique Doesn't Affect Development