In vitro fertilisation (IVF) may significantly increase the risk of birth defects, particularly those of the eye, heart, reproductive organs and urinary systems, a new study has found.

Researchers found that despite increasing use of IVF in the US, associations between birth defects and IVF are poorly understood. Management of birth defects comprises a large part of pediatric surgical care and demands significant health care resources.

Researchers examined infants born in California from 2006-2007 after IVF and other treatments such as fertility-enhancing drugs or artificial insemination. They examined maternal age, race, the number of times the mother had given birth, infant gender, year of birth and presence of major birth defects.

"Our findings included a significant association between the use of assisted reproductive technology, such as certain types of in vitro fertilisation, and an increased risk of birth defects," said study author Lorraine Kelley-Quon, a general surgery resident at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Overall, 3,463 infants with major birth defects were identified among 4,795 infants born after IVF and 46,025 naturally conceived infants with similar maternal demographics. Birth defects were significantly increased for infants born after IVF, 9% versus 6.6% for naturally conceived infants.

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