- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2014

The number of American babies conceived with the help of medical technology hit another record in 2012, with nearly two out of every 100 babies born in the country begun with the help of in-vitro fertilization and other techniques, according to a new study released Monday.

In-vitro fertilization had a banner year, with the “largest number of cycles, of babies and percentage of babies born through IVF ever reported,” the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) said in a new survey of 2012 data.

SART’s 379-member clinics reported 61,740 babies born via IVF, some 2,000 more than in 2011.

These births also represented about 1.5 percent of the 3.9 million babies born that year — a notable accomplishment for a medical practice introduced just four decades ago to help women with tubal disorders become pregnant.

Moreover, more women are choosing to have only one embryo transferred in a cycle, resulting in fewer multiple births and raising the chances of a healthy child.

SART officials called these trends measures of solid progress, since pregnancies with twins and triplets can be risky for mother and children. “Better information leads to better informed patients and physicians, and better treatments,” said Dr. Charles Coddington, president of SART.

IVF cycles refer to the process in which a woman’s eggs are extracted, fertilized in an IVF lab and transferred, as an living embryo, into a woman, with the expectation that she will become pregnant.

The first “test-tube” baby — Louise Brown — was born in 1978 in England, a medical milestone that generated headlines around the world. Dr. Robert Edwards, who helped develop the IVF procedure used by the Browns, was given the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work.

Today, the practice is more mainstream — once embryos are transferred into the uterus, “there is nothing distinguishable between embryos fertilized in the body or in an IVF laboratory,” said Genetics & IVF Institute, a leading service provider in the D.C. metropolitan area.

SART, an affiliate of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, compiles annual data on IVF cycles, transfers, pregnancies and births. Procedures using fresh and frozen embryos are counted.

The 2012 total of 165,172 cycles represents a 7 percent increase from 2011 — and a 46 percent increase from a decade ago.

As might be expected, the percentage of IVF cycles resulting in a live birth is affected by a woman’s age: Among women younger than 35, nearly 41 percent of cycles using fresh embryos resulted in a live birth in 2012.

For women aged 35 to 37, the success rate fell to about 31 percent of cycles, and dropped to 22 percent among women aged 38 to 40. For women aged 41 to 42, only about 12 percent of cycles resulted in a live birth; for women 43 and older, barely 4 percent of cycles led to a birth.

Women are also averaging lower numbers of embryos transferred in a cycle, resulting in lower numbers of multiple births. In 2012, for instance, about 30 percent of women under age 35 had twins, and about 1 percent had triplets. In 2003, more than 33 percent of women this age who became pregnant through IVF had twins and around 6 percent had triplets.

SART data found that “tubal” factors were diagnosed in about 6 percent of cases, which is less than the 12 percent seen in 2003. However, diagnoses of “diminished ovarian reserve” — a term that describes a waning egg supply, especially in aging women — rose to 17 percent in 2012, compared with 10 percent in 2003.

The average age of a first-time U.S. mother has risen to 25.6 years, according to the most recent Census Bureau data up from around age 21 in 1970.

Separately, the federal government reported recently that about 7 million women between the ages of 25 and 44 sought help getting pregnant in between 2006 and 2010. About 275,000 of these women pursued assisted-reproductive technology services, the National Center for Health Statistics said in January.



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