IVF treatment increases risks of birth defects
Research has discovered that some IVF treatments are causing a higher risk of birth defects in babies than would otherwise naturally occur.
Babies created by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which is used in around half of fertility treatments in the UK, were more likely to suffer abnormalities.
The research was carried out by the Robson Institute at the University of Adelaide and involved the examination of over 300,000 births in Australia.
The study found that the risk of a birth defect was 5.8 per cent following natural conception, compared with 7.2 per cent following conventional IVF, and 9.9 per cent after ICSI.
ICSI is used where the male has a low sperm count. The technique involves sperm being injected into the egg. Researchers were unable to establish if the damage was caused because of the technique itself or because men suffering from sperm damage were more likely to pass on anomalies.
Dr Allan Pacey, fertility expert at the University of Sheffield, said: "The study suggests that while babies born from IVF are as healthy as their naturally conceived counterparts, there is still some residual risk to babies born through ICSI that currently cannot be explained."
The use of IVF is under increasing scrutiny. A recent Daily Mail investigation into the surrogacy industry discovered that couples from the UK are ordering ‘designer babies’ in India.
Surrogacy consultancy firms are sourcing the components of babies from different countries before flying the resulting embryo to India to be implanted in the surrogate.
Eggs are often being taken from white women in Eastern Europe so that clients can choose the features of their baby and design one that will resemble them. An increasing proportion of clients are homosexual couples.
The investigation also discovered that clients can pay a premium for multiple embryos to be implanted to maximise the chances of conception. If too many embryos develop, some are then selectively terminated.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
“The practice of implanting multiple embryos and then discarding some of them is deeply wrong as an embryo is genetically distinct from its mother and is a new human being. It must be treated as a human life and not as disposable material. We must never forget that human life is a gift from God.”