Offspring physiology following the use of IVM, IVF and ICSI: a systematic review and meta-analysis of animal studies

Kiri H Beilby, Ezra Kneebone, Tessa J Roseboom, Indah M van Marrewijk, Jeremy G Thompson, Robert J Norman, Rebecca L Robker, Ben Willem J Mol, Rui Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Since the birth of the first baby using IVF technology in 1978, over 10 million children have been conceived via ART. Although most aspects of ARTs were developed in animal models, the introduction of these technologies into clinical practice was performed without comprehensive assessment of their long-term safety. The monitoring of these technologies over time has revealed differences in the physiology of babies produced using ARTs, yet due to the pathology of those presenting for treatment, it is challenging to separate the cause of infertility from the effect of treatments offered. The use of systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate the impacts of the predominant ART interventions used clinically in human populations on animals produced in healthy fertile populations offers an alternative approach to understanding the long-term safety of reproductive technologies.

OBJECTIVE AND RATIONALE: This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to examine the evidence available from animal studies on physiological outcomes in the offspring conceived after IVF, IVM or ICSI, compared to in vivo fertilization, and to provide an overview on the landscape of research in this area.

SEARCH METHODS: PubMed, Embase and Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux (CAB) Abstracts were searched for relevant studies published until 27 August 2021. Search terms relating to assisted reproductive technology, postnatal outcomes and mammalian animal models were used. Studies that compared postnatal outcomes between in vitro-conceived (IVF, ICSI or IVM) and in vivo-conceived mammalian animal models were included. In vivo conception included mating, artificial insemination, or either of these followed by embryo transfer to a recipient animal with or without in vitro culture. Outcomes included birth weight, gestation length, cardiovascular, metabolic and behavioural characteristics and lifespan.

OUTCOMES: A total of 61 studies in five different species (bovine, equine, murine, ovine and non-human primate) met the inclusion criteria. The bovine model was the most frequently used in IVM studies (32/40), while the murine model was mostly used in IVF (17/20) and ICSI (6/8) investigations. Despite considerable heterogeneity, these studies suggest that the use of IVF or maturation results in offspring with higher birthweights and a longer length of gestation, with most of this evidence coming from studies in cattle. These techniques may also impair glucose and lipid metabolism in male mice. The findings on cardiovascular outcomes and behaviour outcomes were inconsistent across studies.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS: Conception via in vitro or in vivo means appears to have an influence on measurable outcomes of offspring physiology, manifesting differently across the species studied. Importantly, it can be noted that these measurable differences are noticeable in healthy, fertile animal populations. Thus, common ART interventions may have long-term consequences for those conceived through these techniques, regardless of the pathology underpinning diagnosed infertility. However, due to heterogeneous methods, results and measured outcomes, highlighted in this review, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions. Optimizing animal and human studies that investigate the safety of new reproductive technologies will provide insight into safeguarding the introduction of novel interventions into the clinical setting. Cautiously prescribing the use of ARTs clinically may also be considered to reduce the chance of promoting adverse outcomes in children conceived before long-term safety is confidently documented.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdmac043
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalHuman Reproduction Update
Early online date5 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2023


  • ICSI
  • IVM
  • IVF
  • ART
  • assisted reproduction
  • postnatal outcomes
  • animal model
  • systematic review


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