IVF Treatment Effects on Baby's Genes

date Wed, 21 Jun 2023

Reproductive technologies appear to leave a biological “signature” on several genes that can be measured at birth. This may explain why assisted conception increases the chance of early delivery, low birth weight and congenital abnormalities – and the question has remained about why this might be so. But the good news, according to our research published today in the journal Nature Communications, is these “epigenetic” changes largely disappear by adulthood. In fact, people born via IVF are as healthy as their naturally conceived peers.

Reproductive Technologies: Epigenetic Changes at Birth and Beyond

Millions of couples worldwide are using IVF Treatment to conceive children and achieve their dreams of parenthood. However, the question of whether these technologies could leave a lasting biological signature on the genes of these children has remained unanswered – until now.

According to research published today in the journal Nature Communications, reproductive technologies such as assisted conception, can lead to epigenetic changes that may increase the risk of early delivery, low birth weight and congenital abnormalities. However, the good news is that these changes largely disappear by adulthood.

What are Epigenetic Changes?

Epigenetic changes

Epigenetics refers to changes in gene expression that do not alter the DNA sequence but instead affect the way in which we read genes and it translates into proteins. Epigenetic modifications can be influenced by a range of environmental and lifestyle factors including diet, stress, and exposure to toxins.

The Study

Researchers at the University of Adelaide conducted one of the largest studies of its kind. It analyzed the epigenetic changes in almost 3000 newborns from Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands who were conceived using reproductive technologies such as Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

They found that babies born through reproductive technologies had a small but significant increase in epigenetic changes in several genes related to growth and development. These changes also associates with an increased risk of low birth weight, early delivery, and congenital abnormalities.

However, these epigenetic changes are largely resolve by adulthood as per the study, and the majority of the participants do not show any negative long-term health outcomes.

Implications for Future Parents

The findings of this study are important for couples who have undergone reproductive technologies, as it suggests that there may be some short-term effects on the child’s health, but the majority of epigenetic changes appear to resolve by adulthood.

These findings have improved the understanding of the epigenetic changes associated with reproductive technologies, and how they may be linked to low birth weight and other congenital abnormalities. It also emphasizes the importance of long-term follow-up studies to ensure the health and well-being of babies born through reproductive technologies.

The study highlights the importance of discussing the potential short-term risks with doctors and the role of long-term monitoring to ensure the long-term health of the child.


Reproductive technologies have brought a new level of hope and possibility for many couples. While this study suggests that some risks may exist, the majority of epigenetic changes resolve by adulthood, and the positive impact of these technologies remains clear. By pursuing ongoing research to better understand and improve the outcome of reproductive technologies, we can ensure that all parents can become proud and happy parents.

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