Monday, December 17, 2007

Another informative article from

This article explains risks and problems that occur from in vitro fertilization. I had already heard of some of these problems, but I also learned a lot more.

If you truly feel that God is calling you to be a parent but are unable to have children of your own God still has a plan and a solution that doesn't involve test tubes and artificial conception. There are thousands of God's already created, natural, beautiful gifts just waiting to be adopted by a loving family.

Data Point to Risk for Kids and Moms

By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, DEC. 16, 2007 ( The Catholic Church has often warned of the moral perils associated with in vitro fertilization. In addition, the processes involved in IVF bring with them a series of medical dangers, both for women and their offspring.

One of these risks is the threat of genetically related illnesses stemming from donated eggs or sperm. The Los Angeles Times published on Dec. 8 a special report on the problems suffered by a couple who have a child born due to an ova donation by Alexandra Gammelgard.

To pay for college, Gammelgard sold her eggs to agencies that led to at least four children. One of these donations resulted in a child whose birth was arranged by a homosexual couple, Bruce Steiger and Rick Karl. It later turned out that the child suffers from Tay-Sachs disease, a neurological condition that usually kills its victims before age 5.

Gammelgard is a carrier of the genetic mutation, but was unaware of it at the time she sold her eggs. The other couples who have children resulting from the ova donated by Gammelgard remain unaware of the risks. Even if their children do not develop the illness they will, in turn, run the risk of passing it on to the next generation.

This would not happen with blood donations, the Los Angeles Times noted, as donors and their blood are tracked so recipients can be warned in the case of dangers discovered after donation.

The laws regulating IVF, by contrast, privilege confidentiality, and there is no guarantee users of donated eggs or sperm will be told if it is discovered later on that a donor has serious health problems.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of children born in the U.S. from donated eggs reached about 6,500 in 2005. Donated sperm is more common, leading to tens of thousands of births each year.

Couples can also have their hopes falsely raised by the continual announcements of new IVF treatments, warned an article Nov. 15 in the Wall Street Journal. In October a new embryo-screening technique was unveiled, immediately winning a prize from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).

At the same time, however, a group of experts from the ASRM, along with the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, published a statement urging caution about certain kinds of genetic embryo screening, saying there is insufficient scientific evidence about its usefulness.

High costs, low success

The Wall Street Journal also noted that a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine questioned the usefulness of advanced fertility treatments for many patients. Such procedures are often proffered to couples, playing on their fears of remaining without children, but they have no guarantee of success, and cost thousands of dollars.

The ASRM also warned, the Associated Press reported Oct. 22, that women should not place too much trust in frozen eggs. So far there have only been around 500 births from frozen-and-thawed eggs worldwide.

Due to problems with ice crystals forming in the freezing process the eggs may be rendered useless. The ASRM explained that the freezing technique, which can cost more than $10,000, might only have a 2%-4% chance of a live birth for every thawed egg.

Doctors in Ireland also expressed concerns, the Irish Times reported Sept. 11. Next year, two British clinics are set to introduce in Ireland the possibility for women to freeze eggs using the vitrification process.

Already the Human Assisted Reproduction Ireland at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin offers women the possibility to freeze eggs using another method, the slow-freeze process. Dr. Edgar Mocanu, a consultant with the Rotunda center, warned that the new technique was still experimental and there are no data available yet on possible health problems for the babies born as a result of the process.

A further concern is whether the promotion of egg freezing will induce women to postpone pregnancy. Dr. Aongus Nolan, lab director at the University College Hospital Galway Fertility Unit, told the Irish Times that, apart from concerns over the survival of frozen eggs, the longer women wait the more difficult it will be for them to become pregnant.

Multiple births

Another problem area is the tendency of IVF procedures to result in the birth of twins. Walter Merricks, the interim director of the United Kingdom's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, called for a reduction in multiple births, the Guardian reported Dec. 4.

Currently, IVF in the United Kingdom accounts for nearly 1 in 5 of the overall number of multiple births, due to women being implanted with two or three embryos during fertility treatment.

The Guardian article observed that twin births are the single biggest risk factor for babies born through IVF. Dangers include premature birth, low birth weight, cerebral palsy, heart disease and diabetes.

In the U.S., a Nov. 20 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that twins have made up about 44% of all IVF births. The newspaper cited a 2004 report by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in which researchers commented that in order to boast of high success rates for IVF treatments, clinics tend to favor the implantation of multiple embryos.

Health defects

Apart from problems due to multiple births, children born from IVF techniques tend to suffer more health problems in general. On July 23 the U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail reported on figures published in the medical journal Human Reproduction.

A study carried out by the Imperial College London on almost 900 children found that on average, a 7-year-old conceived after fertility treatment had been hospitalized 1.76 times -- while a child conceived naturally had been admitted only once. By the age of 7, IVF children had spent an average of 4.31 days hospitalized, almost two days longer than other children.

Fits and other conditions affecting the brain were more common in those born after IVF treatment. The immune system was also affected, with IVF children being more prone to infections, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. While some of the problems could be related to multiple births, the study also found that single children born as a result of IVF were also less healthy than naturally conceived offspring.

Mothers are also at risk, reported the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 3. One of the major problems stems from the number of pregnancies at an older age. Births for U.S.-born women in California aged 40-44 have increased threefold since 1982.

Older mothers are more likely to develop high blood pressure and gestational diabetes and to give birth to premature and low birth-weight babies, the article warned. It also cited a 2004 study of Swedish women, which found that the rate of premature births for women ages 40-44 to be 150% higher than for women 20-29.

Couples who discover they cannot bear children suffer greatly, acknowledges the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2374. Nevertheless, methods aimed at overcoming such problems should be placed at the service of the human person and their rights, as well as respecting the bond between husband and wife and the nature of the sexual act, the following paragraphs explain.

A child is a gift, not a piece of property, and possesses rights that should be respected, adds No. 2378. A teaching whose wisdom is being confirmed more and more as complications from IVF emerge.