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Perils of infertility treatments

ATLANTA, GEORGIA & PERTH, AUSTRALIA. It is estimated that infertility now affects about 10 per cent of the reproductive age population in the United States. In medical terms a couple is considered infertile if the woman fails to conceive after a year of trying to do so. The growing incidence of infertility has led to the development of various assisted reproduction schemes; the most widely used being in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection. It has long been known that the use of assisted reproduction technology vastly increases the chance of having twins or even triplets. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the number of low birth weight children.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health now report that the incidence of low birth weight in single children conceived with assisted reproduction is 6.5 per cent as compared to 2.5 per cent among children conceived naturally. Artificially conceived children are also more likely to be born with major birth defects. Australian researchers found that 9 per cent of children conceived with assisted reproductive technology had a major birth defect diagnosed by one year of age as compared to a rate of 4.2 per cent among naturally conceived infants.

Dr. Allen Mitchell, MD of Boston University warns that the number of clinics providing assisted reproductive services is growing rapidly and that they are aggressively promoting their services. He recommends that prospective parents "keep trying a little longer" rather than rush into an artificial conception, which may produce a low birth weight infant or one with a birth defect.
Schieve, Laura A., et al. Low and very low birth weight in infants conceived with use of assisted reproductive technology. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 346, March 7, 2002, pp. 731-37
Hansen, Michele, et al. The risk of major birth defects after intracytoplasmic sperm injection and in vitro fertilization. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 346, March 7, 2002, pp. 725-30
Mitchell, Allen A. Infertility treatment: more risks and challenges. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 346, March 7, 2002, pp. 769-70 (editorial)

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