Having a baby through IVF has no impact on the future health of the child, new research suggests.
Ever since the first ‘test-tube baby’ was born in 1978, some scientists have raised concerns about potential birth defects.
A host of other evidence has linked the fertility treatment to various health problems in infants as they grow older.
But the British study now claims to show that any such fears over starting a family through IVF are ‘largely unfounded’.
Experts have described the findings as ‘reassuring’ for parents and said it should bolster confidence in the treatment which lets thousands of parents achieve their dreams of having children.
King’s College London researchers focused on epigenetics for the study – the biological mechanisms that regulate genes.
These differences have been identified in common chronic diseases such as cancer, psychiatric disorders and diabetes.
But lead author Dr Jordana Bell said: ‘We found no such major epigenetic differences in babies conceived by IVF.
‘Our results are reassuring for parents who used IVF, as our research suggests that technology has little impact on epigenetic changes, and potentially future health.’
The researchers took blood samples from the umbilical cord in order to analyse epigenetic changes in 107 newborn twins.
Of these, 47 were conceived through IVF while the others were fertilised naturally, according to the findings published in the journal BioMed Central.
However, Dr Bell added that more research is needed to see if the small changes observed remain over time.
Consultant gynaecologist Dr Luciano Nardo told MailOnline that ‘there is absolutely no cause for alarm’.
The medical director of Cheshire’s Reproductive Health Group said: ‘IVF has benefited millions of couples to date. It’s been vital for so many families and a miracle of science.
‘So this research not only offers reassurance to the parents of IVF children, but to the children themselves.’
Researchers around the world have long reported a correlation between IVF and low birth weight in babies.
But one reason for this is that fertility treatment is often associated with common risk factors of complications, such as being older mothers.
However, those born through the fertility method face a potential health timebomb, a scientist warned last year.
Dr Pascal Gagneux, based at University of California, San Diego, claimed that assisted reproduction is an ‘evolutionary experiment’.
He said that it could prove to be as big as a health disaster as junk food, leaving children at risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and premature death.
And with problems potentially taking decades to develop, he warned that the consequences of artificial conception may yet to have emerged.
The findings come as more and more couples are taking to IVF to have children as fertility rates continue to fall worldwide.
In November, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) announced 250,000 babies have now been born in the UK through this method.
Figures suggest that the tally of children conceived through IVF stands at around five million worldwide.