January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. About 3% to 4% of all babies born in the United States have congenital abnormalities that will affect the way they look, develop, or function—in some cases for the rest of their lives.

Birth defects and genetic conditions may be caused by:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Socioeconomic/demographic factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Prenatal infection
  • Unknown causes

Those that cannot have a traditional pregnancy may also be at an even higher risk for children with abnormalities. Research has found that families using Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) may experience a higher rate of congenital disabilities.

ICSI is a male infertility treatment that essentially forces the sperm to fertilize the egg. The risk varies with the type of embryo chosen in the process. Studies from the New England Journal of Medicine showed an increase in congenital disabilities with fresh embryos use. There was a lower increase in birth defects when the embryos were frozen and later transferred. Of the babies born using ICSI, about 10% has some sort of disability or congenital birth defect, as compared to 3-4% of babies conceived naturally.

However, with embryo adoption, embryos with potential defects may be less likely to survive the freezing and thawing process, resulting in a selection of healthier embryos with fewer abnormalities.

Embryo adoption is an option that poses a risk as all fertility treatments do. However, there is no research indicating a higher risk of birth defects from the general population.

Instead of dwelling on if birth defects may affect your future child, it’s better to focus on what you can do to prevent them from happening. This includes:

  • Healthy, well-balanced, and nutritious diet
  • Abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs
  • Taking a prenatal vitamin that is high in folic acid
  • Avoid traveling to regions where infectious outbreaks known to cause birth defects occur
  • Reducing exposure to hazardous substances (heavy metals, pesticides, etc.) during pregnancy
  • Avoiding exposure to certain medications known to cause birth defects or radiation during pregnancy
  • Being up-to-date on vaccinations prior to pregnancy

Start planning today! Start your embryo adoption or donation journey by visiting EmbryoAdoption.org.