Higher Risks for Artificially Conceived Infants
Data about the risks involved in high-tech assisted reproduction have
until recently been scarce. The industry naturally touts success rates
and downplays failures, and the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) has largely been restricted to sharing only
self-reported data from clinics with the public. But this is
changing—and families intending to use these technologies should be
aware of the full implications of the statistics that are available.
Last month, for instance, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies announced that a record number of babies were born – 61,740 – as a result of the 165,172 in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles performed at 379 of its member clinics in 2012.1
On the surface, this announcement may be perceived as an endorsement for the success of reproductive medical services that have, undoubtedly, helped many couples over the last 35 years to bear the children they might otherwise not have been able to. As we celebrate the births of these babies, however, it is also important to recognize that the vast majority of IVF cycles continue to fail, and that not all infants born from these procedures are healthy – or even survive.
In the U.S., the CDC collects the most comprehensive (though self-reported) data. The CDC’s preliminary 2012 data, from 456 infertility clinics, shows an overall 71 percent failure rate per cycle nationally.2 Of the 176,275 women who underwent ART cycles that year, only 51,294 experienced a live birth, which is defined by the CDC as:
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a delivery in which at least one fetus was live born … regardless of gestational age at birth … These signs of life include breathing, beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of the voluntary muscles.3