Is ICSI Safe?

Many of the newfangled fertility procedures and treatments, including IVF and ICSI involve stimulating the ovaries. In ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a complication that has the potential for grave danger, the ovaries enlarge and in the worst scenarios may bring on breathing problems, kidney damage, or blood clots.

Inherited Conditions

While the research to date has not been conclusive, several recent studies have found that babies born as a result of ICSI may have increased risks for specific birth defects. For instance, the rate of hypospadias, in which the opening of a boy's urethra is located on the underside of his penis, is higher in those boys born via ICSI than is seen in the general population. But another factor to consider is that male infertility is often genetic. This means that baby boys conceived with the help of ICSI inherit these conditions and have a much increased risk for future fertility issues as adults. ICSI babies have also been found to have 4 times the risk for genetic abnormalities linked to sex chromosomes. Such abnormalities are known to result in a variety of clinical syndromes.

One Australian study found that 5,138 ICSI and IVF children they tested had twice the risk for major birth defects in comparison with babies conceived through natural means. On the other hand, a study of 1,139 Swedish babies born via ICSI found that while there was an apparent slight increase for minor and major birth defects, the defects were thought to be connected to the increased rate of multiple births and early deliveries that are associated with such fertility treatments, rather than to ICSI. When even the experts can't agree, it seems safe to state that using ICSI and other assisted reproductive techniques does carry at least a small risk for birth defects.

There is also a suggestion that the ICSI procedure has an effect on mental development. Research shows that the minds of ICSI children may develop more slowly than those of children in the general population. But this was just an early small study. Many other subsequent studies have refuted these findings.

Learning Disabilities

For instance, some new research found that ICSI babies are not more likely to experience learning disabilities. The journal known as Pediatrics published a 2005 study on 1,423 five-year-olds hailing from 5 different countries in Europe. In this study, the children conceived as a result of either ICSI or IVF had similar results to their peers conceived through natural methods in terms of both motor and cognitive developmental tests. 

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