IVF babies could be at double the risk of developing asthma

Researchers based at Oxford University claim that a child who is born through In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is more than double likely to develop asthma compared to a child that is planned and then conceived naturally. During IVF, an egg is taken from the woman’s ovaries and then fertilised with the man’s sperm at a laboratory inside a dish. This fertilisation process is referred to as ‘in vitro’, which is the Latin meaning for ‘in glass’. The resultant embryo is then placed back inside the woman’s womb to grow and develop.

Cost of the treatment is incredibly expensive, with the UK and the U.S. leading the way in regards to each ‘live birth’ and it is the actual costliness of the underlying healthcare system that is taken into account more than anything else. Unfortunately, in recent times IVF has faced many controversies and some babies from IVF treatment have even joined together on internet forums later in their life to voice their distress and anger with their situation. Many feel socially ostracised and frustrated about not knowing their donor parent and genetic relatives they may have.

The asthma claims stem from what is the first ever UK study to analyse asthma risks following an IVF conception and have recently been published in the journal Human Reproduction. A possible connection was established by scientists at the University following an analysis of 18,818 children born in the UK in a two-year period between 2000 and 2002.

According to the study, children conceived after fertility treatment, are also more likely to suffering wheezing or have to use an anti-asthmatic medicine by the age of five; a potential indication of more severe asthma.  Despite the possible connection between IVF treatment and lung problems, the researchers stress that the findings do not definitely prove asthma is caused by IVF and that a child born as a result remains at low risk.

Childhood asthma is already a massive problem in the UK. In total it is estimated there are around 1.1 million children who are currently receiving treatment for asthma in the UK – an equivalent of 1 in every 11 children. Asthma rates have skyrocketed four-fold since the 1970s and some of the many risk factors for the problem have been covered in detail by Medical Specialists Pharmacy. Just this year alone we have seen a wide range of different issues that can contribute to asthma development, such as tobacco smoke, viral infections and mothers taking antibiotics during pregnancy.

In addition, approximately one child in every seven will experience ‘wheezing’ at some point during their first five years. The Oxford University study will raise concerns as the results show that IVF children are twice as likely to develop wheezing.

Researchers conducting the study found that children born to sub-fertile parents were 39% more likely to be experiencing asthma symptoms by the time they were aged five. Also the same children were 27% more likely to suffer with wheezing.

A thorough analysis of the results showed a link between health problems and assisted reproduction technology (ART). ARTs can include IVF as well as ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection); which involves injecting a single sperm straight into an egg to fertilise it.

Lead researcher Dr Claire Carson of Oxford University says that in total 15% of the children involved in their study were asthmatic at age five, with an increase to 24% within the 104 children born through assisted-reproduction technologies. As only 104 were born via this method, scientists have urged caution when translating the results.

Dr Carson explains: “Childhood asthma is a common condition in the UK where the prevalence of the condition is higher than other European countries, and to our knowledge this is the first UK study of asthma after IVF conceptions. Our analysis suggests that it is the ART group in particular who are at higher risk.”

Malayka Rahman, from the charity Asthma UK, said: “This study suggests that there might be an association between IVF treatment and asthma developing in children, but the sample size for this study is small and currently the research in this area generally is not conclusive. Overall research suggests that the absolute risk of asthma increasing after IVF appears to be small. Further work is needed to establish what might be causing this association and whether there are other factors at play other than the IVF treatment itself. In the meantime those considering IVF should speak to their GP about the benefits and health risks in order to make an informed decision.”

Medical Specialists Pharmacy is able to help you if you are suffering from asthma. We can provide any new or existing asthma patient with a wide range of medications. If you have already been prescribed an inhaler, have lost your inhaler, or run out and cannot get a prescription immediately, we are able to supply you an inhaler to help your asthma symptoms. You can undergo a quick and easy confidential online consultation with one of our GMC-registered Doctors and if suitable, they will write you a prescription which is passed to our in-house RPSGB–registered Pharmacists and dispensed to a location of your choice. We have both blue (relievers) inhalers such as Ventolin and Salbutamol, and brown (preventers) inhalers such as Qvar Beclomethasone and Qvar Easi-Breathe.

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