Fertility treatment increases risks of intellectual disabilities

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Swedish research found that treatment used to help men with poor fertility increases the chances of low IQ and autism.


Sperm damage from ICSI fertility treatment may increase chances of babies born with low IQ and autism

The risk of IVF

A Swedish study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association made a discovery that ICSI (Intra cytoplasm sperm injection), one of the IVF (In vitro fertilisation) treatments, is associated with babies that were born with intellectual disabilities.

According to the Daily Mail report, this Swedish study found that after men with poor sperm were treated with ICSI, there was a 51 per cent increased risk of giving birth to a baby with an IQ below 70 and having autism. Where the amount was an initial 62 per 100,000, it later increased to 92 per 100,000.

Dr. Avi Reichenberg from the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London said, “Our study shows treatments developed to manage male infertility are associated with an increased risk for developmental disorders in offsprings.”

RELATED: IVF horrows: Worst case-scenarios

How is this possible?

The reason why there is a likelihood of giving birth to babies with intellectual disabilities after ICSI fertility treatment is that the techniques involved in extracting the sperms and injecting them directly into the egg may be damaging for the sperms.

RELATED: How common are miscarriages after IVF?

Nothing to worry about

Other scientists however claimed that even though there seems to be an increased risk in giving birth to a baby with intellectual disabilities after ICSI fertility treatment, the chances of an ICSI baby being affected remains small. And they reassured that ICSI is still a safe option for couples who are turning to IVF.

fertility treatment

Doctors say that there is nothing to worry about.


IVF is the process of fertilising the egg by combining egg and sperm together outside the body. The fertilised egg will then be allowed to grow for a brief period of time before it is injected back into the uterus lining. This is usually to help couples who have fertility problems.

ICSI is used when the conventional methods of IVF fail to work. This process involves injecting the sperm through the cytoplasm of the egg, so as to assist the fertilisation of the egg. This is because the sperm may not be able to fertilise the egg even at close proximity during conventional methods of IVF.

RELATED: What is natural insemination?

Other complications

Even though IVF and ICSI are safe options, complications may still arise. Asides miscarriages, here are some of the other common complications:

1. Multiple pregnancy

To increase the chances of pregnancy, more than one fertilised egg (embryo) may be injected into the uterus lining, hence resulting in multiple pregnancies. Multiple pregnancies may also lead to health risks for both mother and child, for instance premature births, stillborn babies etc.

2. Risk of ectopian pregnancy

Ectopian pregnancy is when the embryo is planted outside the uterus cavity and this may happen especially among women who have problems that affect her fallopian tubes. A baby born outside the uterus cavity will not survive and is dangerous for the mother as well.

For more information on fertility treatments like IVF and ICSI, consult your gynaecologist or visit the Sing Health website for more details. Learn more about ICSI and how fertility treatment works:


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Written by

Miss Vanda