Does IVF cut birth defect risk in babies with older mothers?

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“Women aged 40 or over are less likely to have babies with birth defects if they conceive by IVF,” the Daily Mail reports, while the Daily Telegraph says: “Older mothers have healthier babies if they conceive using IVF.”

Both headlines misinterpret the results of a study that looked at births in South Australia between 14 and 30 years ago.

Researchers wanted to see which maternal factors were linked to the risk of birth defects, and how this risk compared between women who conceived naturally and those who had two types of fertility treatment: either in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).

Overall, they found there were three lifestyle factors linked to birth defects: maternal age, whether the mother was a smoker and how many children she’d had before.

Among the smaller proportion of women who had IVF or ICSI, increasing age was not linked with birth defects with either of these individual fer

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