Since the first in-vitro fertilization (IVF) baby, Louise Brown, was born in 1978, assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatment has been increasingly used as treatment for most causes of subfertility.The International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies estimated that more than 5 million children worldwide were born as a result of ART treatment. The first Australian – and the world’s third ART baby – was born in 1980. The most recent estimates indicate that more than 4% of all women who gave birth in Australia in 2010 received some form of ART treatment.
The aim of an ART treatment is to establish a pregnancy, maintain the pregnancy and have a healthy baby. However anumber of adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes have been identified as being associated with ART treatment. Multiple gestation pregnancy is the most notable adverse outcome following ART treatment and is responsible for the majority of maternal and obstetric complications. Preterm birth, low birthweight, congenital anomaly, and perinatal mortalityare also prevalent amongst babies born following ART treatment. It remains unclear whether and to what extent ART treatment itself is causally associated with increased risk of adverse pregnancy, birth and infant outcomes. The heterogeneity between births to women following ART treatment and those conceived naturally makes it difficult to determine. The excess adverse pregnancy, birth and infant outcomes among ART births are possibly related to the cause of subfertility rather than the ART treatment. The excess morbidity and mortality may also reflect the well known risk factors for adverse outcomes such as older maternal age, nulliparity, medical co-morbidities, and recurrent miscarriages which are more prevalent among women giving birth after ART treatment compared to spontaneous conceptions.
The overarching objective of the ART project isto provide evidence of the safety (measured in terms of a reduced risk of adverse maternal, birth and infant outcomes) of ART treatment. The ART project aims to investigate what types of ART treatments and procedures are associated with low risk of adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, to inform clinical practice and government policy in relation to quality and safety of ART treatment.