Negating the earlier concerns that test tube babies could have several health concerns including a shorter life span, a new University of Tel Aviv, Israel study green-signals in vitro fertilization (IVF) as safe in the long run.
The study reassures that ART-conceived adolescents remain mentally, physically healthy and functional in the long run.
Beginning in 1978, IVF has revolutionized fertility treatments around the globe. Every year 400,000 babies are conceived through IVF – that’s about 0.3% of 130 million babies born each year. Since 1978, more than five million test tube babies have been born worldwide – as per International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies.
The case control study challenges the earlier findings that proscribed the practice as “dangerous in the long run”. The researchers gathered 253 ART-conceived adolescents born between 1982-1993 and compared their physical, medical and mental capabilities during a military pre-induction screening.
No difference was detected in general and mental health between the ART- and naturally-conceived adolescents. The ART-conceived adolescents exhibited paralleled mental and physical proficiencies and aptitude. In fact, test tube babied had a low discharge rate from military on account of health problems.
“Our preliminary results provide reassurance that in the long-run health and functioning of ART-conceived adolescents is not compromised.” said Dr. Mark Weiser, Associate Director for Treatment Trial at Sheba Medical center, professor at Tel Aviv University and the lead author of the study.
“No adverse health outcomes were found in ART adolescents compared with matched references that were spontaneously conceived.”
The study was published in the journal Fertility & Sterility on January 13, 2017
Do Harms Outweigh Benefits of IVF In the Long Run?
Albeit, IVF is considered to bring forth a revolution in baby-making field, though concerns have been raised about the potential health if IVF-conceived babies. The adverse effects include increased risk of miscarriage, fetal malformation such as preterm delivery, low birth weight and increased risk of mortality.
The big question is if harmful effects of assisted reproductive technology (ART) outweigh its benefits?
The answer, or a definitive conclusion, can have dire repercussions because ART is the final probable solution to infertility and has enabled millions of infertile couples to become biological parents.
A growing body of evidence suggests that ART is not devoid of controversy. These studies suggest that babies born through IVF not only are at a heightened risk of premature entry in the world but also carry long term health consequences, some of which can be dire, such as infertility, cardiovascular disease and shorter life span.
Problems with ART is that it bypasses the natural method of conception where nature selects the best sperm for fertilization. During a natural conception, a million sperms enter the woman’s genital tract where they whittle down to only the best 100. Out of these best, only one, perceived the healthiest and the most motile, succeeds in fertilizing the egg.
In IVF, the egg is placed in a test tube, or a petri dish, where millions of sperms are allowed fertilize it directly. This step defies the survival of the fittest. Accessing the egg become easy even for the weakest sperm.
At least three studies have reported that ART-conceived children have a raised systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Some other studies suggested an increased risk of asthma in such children. One of the most interesting findings came from a Swiss Cardiovascular Center, Bern study that took 100 children, including those who have been conceived through IVF, for walking in Swiss Alps. Compared to naturally born children, ART-babies demonstrated heavy breathing and poor heart health while climbing.
One of the most vocal critics of ART and IVF is Dr. Dr Gagneux, Associate Professor University of California, Los Angeles, terms IVF a time bomb. He also fears IVF-conceived children will die young.
Regardless of the concerns, truth is that ART has instilled hope in Subfertile and infertile couples but the emerging studies have put a big question mark to the usefulness and effectiveness of the technique. As per the World Health Organization, infertility affects about 10-15% – almost 80-100 million, of all couples of reproductive age.
The first IVF-conceived baby, Louise Brown born in 1978, is 38 now and not only healthy but has also conceived naturally and given birth to two healthy babies. Brown’s younger sister, Natalie Brown was also conceived through ART four years after her sister was born. Like Louise, Natalie has not struggled with infertility and has naturally given birth to four babies.
Hitherto, only a limited is data available on the long-term outcomes of IVF. The current study is one such attempt to wipe out fears and concerns of anxious and exhausted couples seeking various fertility options.