The Hidden Costs of Reproductive Technology

Studies Show True Risks of In Vitro Fertilization

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ROME, JULY 6, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The number of babies born as a result of assisted reproduction technologies (ART) has reached an estimated total of 5 million, according to information presented at the 28th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), which opened on  July 1, in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to the July 2 press release from ESHRE the estimate comes from ICMART (International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies) and was based on the number of In Vitro Fertilizations (IVF) and Iintracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) treatment cycles recorded worldwide up to 2008 with projections added for the following three years.

Dr. David Adamson, of Fertility Physicians of Northern California, USA, and Chairman of ICMART, said around 1.5 million ART cycles are now performed globally each year, producing around 350,000 babies.

The news came shortly after the death of Lesley Brown, 64, who lived in Bristol, England, who made history in July 1978 when her daughter Louise was the first child to be born as the result of IVF treatment.

Lesley Brown had two daughters, Louise and Natalie, both born following IVF treatment, the BBC reported June 20.

In reaction to the latest news on IVF babies Anthony Ozimic, communications director for the English Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said that "What is largely overlooked is that many millions more embryonic children have been killed following IVF, a quality-controlled process which is also intrinsically abusive of human beings.

“If the countless millions of pounds given to IVF had been given to the much-more successful ethical alternatives, many more children would have been born," he added.

Health risks

In a July 3 press release Ireland’s Iona Institute pointed out that a recent Australian study has revealed serious health risks for those using IVF.

An Australian study, published in the journal, Fertility and Sterility found that women who went through the IVF procedure around their 24th birthday were found to have a 56% greater chance of developing breast cancer than those in the same age group who went through treatments without IVF.

The findings were based on data from 21,025 women between the ages of 20 and 40 who went through fertility treatment at the hospitals of Western Australia between 1983 and 2002.

These are only the latest of many studies that have revealed dangers involved with ART. “Assisted conception carries a slightly increased risk of adverse maternal and perinatal outcomes,” said a press release published early June by England’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

The statement noted that in developed countries, up to 4% of all children are born after ART.

The use of ART is often associated with multiple babies, but the RCOG warned “even singleton pregnancies carry a heightened risk of hypertensive disease, diabetes, prematurity, low birth weight and a higher perinatal mortality even after taking into account age, parity or fetal sex.”

“In addition, recent studies have shown a link between children born from ART and increased congenital malformation rates,” the press release added.

Quality of life

“Problems with fertility can have a major impact on the quality of life and health of affected couples,” said Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran,  of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at St. George’s Hospital Medical School.

Shortly before another Australian study found that there is a higher risk for babies born as a result of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) - where a sperm is injected into the ova.

According to a report in England’s Independent newspaper on May 8 the study, on more than 300,000 babies found that there was a higher risk of abnormalities using the ICSI procedure compared to those conceived naturally.

The research, by the Robson Institute at the University of Adelaide and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found the risk of a birth defect was 5.8% following natural conception, compared with 7.2% following conventional IVF, and 9.9% after ICSI.

According to the report in the Independent around half of all fertility treatments in the UK use the ISCI method.

Concerns have also been expressed at the methods used by some IVF clinics to produce large numbers of ova. Drugs are used to produce “super-ovulation,” either in donor women or those who are using their own ova.

There are fears that clinics are exploiting women to achieve the maximum return on the payments they make to them, the Sunday Times reported last October 23. The article reported that, according to the latest figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, 85 ova were taken from one woman and 80 form another. Three more women had between 70 and 72 eggs removed. In 2008, five clinics harvested 50 or more eggs from women in a single session.

“Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged,” says number 2375 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but number 2378 adds, “A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift.”

“A child may not be considered a piece of property,” the Catechism warns: Something increasingly being ignored, at a great cost.