Blog Post

British Health Officials Say Couples Must be Told of IVF Risks

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer The British Government is requiring that all couples seeking in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments  must be warned that children conceived through this method have a 30 percent increased risk of birth defects and health problems. According to a report by the London Times, the alert has been ordered by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the Government's watchdog on fertility issues. The organization is relying on a number of studies that have found that IVF babies suffer from higher rates of genetic flaws than those conceived naturally. One study, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at more than 18,000 births and found that IVF babies suffer from a range of conditions, including heart valve defects, cleft lip and palate, and digestive system abnormalities due to the bowel or esophagus failing to form properly. Other studies have found IVF babies to have an increased risk of rare genetic disorders including Angelman Syndrome, which leads to delays in development, and Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome, which can lead to a hole in the abdomen and learning difficulties.   Experts are not sure what is causing the abnormalities. One theory is that the fertility drugs which stimulate egg production can lead to poorer quality eggs, which nature would usually weed out. Another is that older women - whose eggs are of a lower quality - are more likely to turn to IVF to conceive. One in six British couples who are infertile resort to IVF for help conceiving but these numbers have been growing. IVF babies now account for more than 10,000 births a year in Britain. Around 2.5 per cent of babies in the general British population are born with some form of birth defect, while in IVF, this number rises to around 3.5 per cent. Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “IVF should never be the first port of call for someone trying to conceive and we need a lot more money to go into research to help restore fertility for natural conception. “IVF is often used when couples are ‘sub-fertile’, meaning they take longer to conceive, or by single women wishing to conceive using donor sperm. Patients need to consider the risks.” © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.