The controversial infertility procedure in vitro fertilization may lead to a greater risk of infertility and cancer in children conceived through the procedure, an Australian researcher says.
University of Newcastle laureate professor John Aitken, a world-renowned expert on male fertility, warned about the negative effects of over-using in vitro fertilization, or IVF, to conceive, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
In the past decade, couples experiencing infertility or waiting until later in life to get pregnant have increasingly turned to IVF to conceive. The procedure involves harvesting sperm and eggs and using them to create living, human embryos outside the womb; the embryos then are implanted in the woman’s womb.
One of the problems with the procedure is that most couples have more embryos created than they will use. Sometimes the leftover embryos are destroyed or donated to research. Others believe the procedure has commoditized human life.
Aitken said the children conceived through IVF and born also are being impacted. He said the infertility procedure, which is used by one in six couples in Australia, is producing a new generation of infertile children. He also pointed to research showing that male children conceived through IVF to aging fathers were more likely to get cancer.
“There is a negative pay-off,” Aitken said, citing new research in Belgium about male infertility. “If you have a son from this process, it is possible that he too will have the same pathology that you had.”
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Studies also have linked IVF to Down syndrome and other genetic disorders. A 2008 study from the Centers for Disease Control found an increased risk of birth defects among children conceived through IVF. The Mayo Clinic reports it also can increase the risk of multiple births, which can have negative effects on the babies, including premature birth and low birth weight.
Aitken expressed serious concern at society’s heavy reliance on assisted conception through procedures like IVF. In Australia, one in 25 babies are now born after being conceived through in vitro fertilization, according to the report. The rate in which couples use IVF is increasing in the U.S., too. Aitken blamed the infertility industry for ignoring that male infertility problems often are to blame, and that IVF should not always be the solution.
“Its an inexorable upward trend. We are taking recourse to IVF in increasing numbers and the thing we have to remember as a society is that the more you use assisted conception in one generation, the more you’re going to need it in the next,” he said.
Another bioethics concern with IVF is the screening of eggs and embryos for health problems, as well as qualities desired by the couple. Some fear that couples are using the screening to pick and choose their child’s traits.