The British Medical Journal has published a cautionary article warning of the potential dangers of IVF. From “Are We Overusing IVF?”
Extended use of IVF also increases the risk of harm. Multiple pregnancies are associated with maternal and perinatal complications such as gestational diabetes, fetal growth restriction, and pre-eclampsia as well as premature birth.
And even singletons born through IVF have been shown to have worse outcomes than those conceived naturally. Although some countries have mitigated the risk of multiple births by requiring single embryo transfer, multiple transfer is still common in many parts of the world, including the United States and Asia, where multiple birth rates are 20% to 30%.
Furthermore, studies suggest that single embryo transfer, which involves extended embryo culture and transfer of a blastocyst, is associated with a 50-70% additional risk of preterm birth and congenital malformations.
So? I want a baby!
That isn’t all:
Concern has also been raised about the long term health of children born through IVF. Otherwise healthy children conceived by IVF may have higher blood pressure, adiposity, glucose levels, and more generalised vascular dysfunction than children conceived naturally.
These effects seem to be related to the IVF procedure itself rather than to underlying subfertility. Animal studies have shown epigenetic and developmental abnormalities after assisted reproduction, which give further cause for reflection.37 Until these concerns are resolved, there should be caution about using IVF in couples when the benefit is uncertain or the chances of natural conception are still reasonable.
So? I want a baby!
The authors suggest caution going forward:
As a society we face a choice. We can continue to offer early, non-evidence based access to IVF to couples with fertility problems or follow a more challenging path to prove interventions are effective and safe and to optimise the IVF procedure. We owe it to all subfertile couples and their potential children to use IVF judiciously and to ensure that we are first doing no harm.
Yea, well good luck with that.
Our near-absolute sense of reproductive entitlement — mixed with the huge profits being made by the industry — make it far more likely that government will pay for IVF, thereby increasing use of the technology.
Besides, I have noticed how few people care about the downsides of IVF — not to mention clearly abusive practices, such as biological colonialism — or anything that smacks of restraint.
Rather than the exercise of caution, I predict continued implacable opposition to any and all reasonable regulations and restrictions.