Baby boys may inherit fertility problems from their fathers if they were conceived using a sophisticated IVF method, doctors have warned...
Boys conceived using an assisted reproduction technique where a single sperm is injected directly into the egg, instead of many sperm being mixed together with an egg, may inherit fertility problems, researchers have found.
There are now an estimated 1 million children across Europe born through IVF treatment. Almost one in 50 British babies is conceived artificially and nearly half the couples having treatment go through a procedure known as ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection).
The method has only been in widespread use since the early 1990s so the children conceived this way are not yet old enough to have their own offspring. Researchers have suggested that because the boys conceived using ICSI are more likely to have short ring fingers in relation to their index fingers when compared with naturally conceived children, this probably indicates they have inherited fertility problems from their fathers.
Lead author Dr Alastair Sutclife, a paediatrician at the Institute of Child Health, said ICSI should only be used where absolutely necessary. He said: ‘We don’t yet know the implication of the findings because the children are very young, but we need to inform people [about the possible risks of the ICSI procedure].’
Finger length is thought to be determined by exposure to testosterone in the womb and has also been linked with depression and aggression in offspring.
IVF Fast Facts
Some 37,000 patients undergo IVF treatment in Britain each year
About 14,000, or 1.8%, of babies each year are born through IVF
About 14% of couples have difficulty conceiving Less than a third (32%) of IVF cycles in women under 35 are successful
Average cost of an IVF cycle: £5,000
Source: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, NHS