A major new study has revealed that women over 40 who give birth are less likely to have a child with birth defects if the conception is done so with assistance.

In order to come to this conclusion, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia studied over 300,000 live births to women over the age of 40. It was found that mothers who had babies naturally were twice as likely to give birth to a child with birth defects than those who conceived with assistance.

Professor Michael Davies of the University of Adelaide, who led the study, stated of his findings:

“There is something quite remarkable occurring with women over the age of 40 who use assisted reproduction.

There is some aspect of IVF treatment in particular that could be helping older women to redress the maternal age issues we see among natural conception, where we observe a transition at around the age of 35 towards a steadily increasing risk of birth defects.

We don’t know what that is quite yet – it could be an aspect of hormonal stimulation that helps reverse the age-related decline in control of ovulation.”

Studying data from 1986 to 2002, researchers found that amongst live births in South Australia, 5.7% conceived naturally were born with birth defects, compared to 9.9% of babies born using the “traditional” IVF methods.

However, in women over 40, only 3.6% of women who conceived using IVF had a child with birth defects, compared against 8.2% who conceived naturally.

10% of babies conceived using Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a type of IVF, regardless of the maternal age, are born with birth defects.

Other scientists, however, warn that the conclusion of this study could be a result of a statistical anomaly due to the small sample size of the study, and therefore it should not necessarily be taken as fact that older women have safer pregnancies with IVF.

The largest group of women having babies in developed countries, like Australia, are women aged 30-39. This is partially because many women choose to delay having children to establish a career or have not found the right partner.

This delay in motherhood can also be attributed to an increase in the overall cost of living, which often calls for a two income household in order to keep a family afloat.

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