Children born after assisted reproduction, where the technique known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection is used, are twice as likely to have a major birth defect, and 50 per cent more likely to have a minor defect, researchers have discovered.
They have overturned the findings of a Belgian research team which had given the technique the "all clear" but only because they had too narrow a definition of major birth defects. Once the definition was widened by a new team of Australian researchers, the real risks became apparent.
The Australian team recommends that doctors counsel prospective parents about the real risks resulting from the technique.
The technique is considered to be the most important development in assisted reproduction since the birth of the first "test tube baby" in 1978 (BMJ, 1997; 315: 1260-6).
For more information on infertility, see WDDTY vol 1, no 8 and vol 6, no 7.