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Reproduction industry risks: infertility treatments increase risk of stillbirths

Friday, March 26, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: infertiliy, stillbirths, health news

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(NaturalNews) The multi-billion dollar medical reproductive technology industry has resulted in the births of millions of kids. They were conceived through non-natural procedures including in vitro fertilization (IVF), also known as the process that produces "test tube" babies, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which involves injecting a single sperm into an egg in the laboratory. But more and more problems are being linked to these high tech baby-making techniques. For example, as NaturalNews previously reported, evidence is mounting that children conceived using some assisted reproductive technologies have an increased incidence of metabolic problems, such as high blood pressure, abnormally elevated fasting glucose levels and excess body fat (http://www.naturalnews.com/026863_IVF_sperm_...).

Now new research raises even more troubling concerns about the safety of IVF and ICSI. A study just published in Human Reproduction, Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal, found that women who became pregnant with a single fetus after treatment with these techniques had a four-fold increased risk of their babies being born dead when compared to women who conceived naturally or after fertility treatments that did not involve IVF or ICSI.

Dr Kirsten Wisborg, a consultant in the neonatal and intensive care unit at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, and colleagues investigated data from pregnant women taking part in the Aarhus Birth Cohort. These moms-to-be were all slated to deliver babies between August 1989 and October 2006. Out of 20,166 first-time pregnancies where only one baby was carried, there were 86 stillbirths -- placing the overall risk of stillbirths at 4.3 per thousand pregnancies.

But when the researchers broke down the statistics to see how many babies were born dead to women who had experienced infertility problems, the risk for stillbirths was clearly far higher for women who conceived after IVF/ICSI treatments when compared to those who conceived naturally. Specifically, for women who conceived after IVF/ICSI, the risk soared to 16.2 per thousand. For women who conceived after non-IVF fertility treatments, the stillbirth rate was 2.3 per thousand. In fertile and sub-fertile women (those who conceived naturally but only after a year of trying), the risk was 3.7 per thousand and 5.4 per thousand, respectively.

"After adjusting for maternal age, body mass index, education, smoking habits and alcohol and coffee intake during pregnancy we found a significant, four-fold increased risk of stillbirth in women who conceived after IVF/ICSI compared with fertile women," Dr Wisborg explained in a statement to the media. "The risk of stillbirth in sub-fertile women and women who conceived after non-IVF fertility treatment was not statistically significantly different from the risk in fertile women."

"Until now, there has been speculation that the increased risk of adverse outcomes, such as stillbirths, in assisted reproduction might be due to factors related to the underlying infertility of the couples. However, we found the risk was similar between sub-fertile couples, women who had conceived after non-IVF fertility treatment and fertile couples. This may indicate that the increased risk of stillbirth is not explained by infertility and may be due to other, as yet unexplained factors, such as the technology involved in IVF/ICSI or some physiological difference in the couples that require IVF/ICSI," she continued. "Hopefully, the results from our study emphasize the need for continuous follow-up of the outcome of fertility treatments, so that the information given to infertile couples seeking treatment can be differentiated to their individual circumstances."

Another recent study, also headed by Dr. Wisborg and published in the February 24th issue of Fertility and Sterility, reached an additional worrisome conclusion. The research team found a statistically significant increased risk of preterm deliveries in women who conceived after IVF/ICSI treatments, compared to women who conceived naturally.

Although the Danish scientists' studies did not discuss the possibility in depth, it seems logical that couples suffering from infertility problems that are so serious they turn to extremely expensive high tech baby-making technologies could have some type of systemic problems affecting their fertility. And these health factors might be either undiscovered, unknown -- or ignored -- by the medical establishment.

A case in point: NaturalNews has reported on research showing that 93% of infertile women are deficit in vitamin D (http://www.naturalnews.com/News_000465_vitam...). In addition, chemicals in the environment, including flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that are commonly found in household consumer products, have been linked to infertility.

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