In births involving a single baby, infants fared worse than babies conceived without medical help in terms of lower birth weight, and high rates of Caesarian section and intensive care admissions. The study showed there was double the risk of premature birth, and death rates were also significantly higher.
Twins conceived with medical assistance also had higher counts of intensive care admissions, premature and Caesarian delivery rates, and lower birth weight, though differences were far less marked than between groups of single babies. Conversely, mortality rates were significantly lower for twins conceived with medical help.
So far reproductive medicine has concentrated on conception, but the focus should now shift to achieving a successful birth, say the researchers. Women undergoing assisted reproduction programmes should also be made properly aware of these risks, say the authors, and more work should be done on reducing risks for babies conceived with medical help. Twenty-five years after the first IVF baby, they conclude, serious challenges persist for reproductive medicine.