The number of babies born with the help of fertility clinics has almost tripled since 1996, but these children are also more likely than others to have difficult births because so many are born as twins or triplets, the federal government says in a report released this week.
In 2009, a total of 60,190 babies were born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures, according to data compiled from 441 fertility clinics.
This is almost three times as many as the 20,597 babies reported in 1996, when ART data were first fully reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The number of ART cycles also doubled, from 64,036 in 1996 to 146,244 in 2009.
As a result, 1.4 percent of all U.S. births in 2009 were conceived with the help of fertility clinics, said the government, which also reported that the procedures are so popular in Massachusetts that 4 percent of all births in that state are via ART.
"There's no question that you are seeing steadily increasing utilization of these technologies," said Sean Tipton, director of public affairs for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
"That's impressive because most of it is not covered by insurance, and obviously we've been in difficult economic times," he said. But having children "is a fundamental human desire, and people are going to do a lot to overcome the obstacles that they may face in that quest."
Basic data about ART for 2010 and earlier years are located at a website run by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, Mr. Tipton noted.
For its report, the CDC collects data on in-vitro fertilization and related procedures that use a woman's own eggs, her own embryos, donated eggs or donated embryos.
However, treatments in which only sperm are handled, such as artificial insemination, are not included in the CDC report.
This is a serious omission because sperm-donor insemination is far more common than the egg or embryo transfers, said Elizabeth Marquardt, author of the reports, "My Daddy's Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Via Sperm Donation" and "One Parent or Five? A Global Look at Today's New Intentional Families."
"Sperm donation and egg and embryo transfers all raise numerous ethical and health concerns for the persons conceived this way, as well as for the health of the women who donate eggs or carry pregnancies," said Ms. Marquardt, who is director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.
The federal government should collect data on pregnancies from sperm donors too, so that the nation can have the best possible information when it talks about "the rights of donor-conceived persons and women involved in the fertility industry," she said.
Other highlights from the new CDC report on ART data for 2009:
California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas were the top locations for ART, and accounted for 46 percent of all ART births.
Almost half of all ART infants – 47 percent – were born as a "multiple," far above the 3 percent of babies born as multiples in the general birth population.
Multiple births are associated with complications, and about a third of ART babies were born prematurely and/or with a low birth weight.
Fifteen states legally mandate insurance coverage for ART.
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