Complex Procedures Lead to Abnormalities

For many years, scientists have known that both singletons and twins conceived after fertility treatment do worse in terms of duration of pregnancy and in live birth weight. “Certain umbilical cord pathologies, such as the insertion of the cord on the placental membranes instead of centrally in the placenta, or the absence of one artery in the cord, are known to correlate with an adverse outcome”, said Ilse Delbaere, from Ghent University Hospital, Belgium, “and we wanted to find out whether these cord anomalies were more frequent after assisted reproduction.”

The team studied data from the East Flanders Prospective Twin Survey (EFPTS). The scientists compared cord characteristics from 2119 spontaneously conceived dizygotic (non-identical) twins and 2243 dizygotic twins who had been born as a result of assisted reproduction technologies (ART). Sub analyses looked at the different types of ART according to its ‘invasiveness’ and complexity.

The results showed not only that cord abnormalities occurred more frequently in ART twins, but that they varied according to the technique used. “We found an incidence of velamentous insertion, where the cord attaches to the placental membrane, of 3.6 percent in spontaneously conceived twins,” said Mrs. Delbaere. “But in twins conceived after IVF we found an incidence of 7.4 percent, and after intracytoplasmatic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected into an egg, it was 10.4 percent.”

The scientists think that embryo implantation may be different after assisted reproduction. When an embryo is transferred to an area with poorer nourishment conditions, the placenta may migrate to more favourable areas, turning an initial central insertion of the cord into something more peripheral.; Source: European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology