Page last updated at 01:21 GMT, Saturday, 21 March 2009

New guidance on IVF defects risk

The HFEA says the majority of babies born by IVF are healthy

Couples seeking IVF are to be warned children born as a result of the fertility treatment may face a higher risk of birth defects.

Guidance from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is to be updated in the light of US research.

Scientists in Atlanta found IVF babies could be up to 30% more likely to suffer from certain health problems and genetic flaws.

More than 12,000 babies were born in the UK in 2006 as a result of IVF.

Patients will be able to access the HFEA's advice on potential risks on its website from next month.

The government's fertility watchdog will also make clear the majority of babies born by IVF are healthy and that more research is needed on the birth defect issues.

The study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found IVF babies suffered from higher rates of conditions such as heart valve defects, cleft lip and palate, and digestive system abnormalities.

An HFEA spokesman said it routinely reviewed its guidance.

"Following the publication of a US study into birth defects, HFEA's scientific and clinical advances committee reviewed our guidance and advice about the risks of treatment," he said.

"As with any medical procedure, it is important that patients understand what the treatment involves and what the risks may be.

"Our code of practice says clinicians must tell patients about the possible side effects and risks of treatment, including any risks for the child."

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