Higher maternal age and assisted reproduction are both linked to congenital anomalies, including Down’s syndrome, heart defects and cleft palates, meaning that IVF babies conceived by older mothers are thought to be especially at risk.
But a study led by Michael Davies at the University of Adelaide, Australia, challenges this assumption. Analyzing births registered in the state of South Australia between 1986 and 2002, his team found that older women who conceived via IVF or intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) were less likely to have children with abnormalities.
In addition, older women who had assisted pregnancies were less likely to have babies with birth defects than younger women who conceived using the same technologies.
One explanation for the results could be that the drugs used to stimulate ovulation during assisted reproduction have a protective effect on the development of an older women’s eggs, says Davies. While younger women receive these drugs during fertility treatments too, the effects may vary according to age, he suggests.
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