A surprisingly negative report from the UK's Medical Research Council (MRC) has concluded that contrary to popular belief, the evidence for the long-term health of IVF babies is "relatively weak" compared to other well-established clinical techniques. Some patients, it says, are "prepared to undergo any treatment that might help them conceive" and had not considered the long-term implications. "With couples willing to go to great lengths to have a child," the MRC says, "it is of paramount importance to safeguard the health of these children from the moment they are conceived until they grow up and want to start families of their own."
The UK's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, asked the MRC to review the potential health effects of artificial reproduction technology. Like most other studies, the MRC's survey highlighted the risk of implanting several embryos to increase the chance of having a single baby. It also pointed out that even single IVF pregnancies are "more likely than naturally conceived ones to have complications and poorer outcomes for mother and child."
The report, "Assisted reproduction: a safe, sound future", was the result of a two-year review of IVF, but it was barely covered by the media. In it the MRC called for more information on the on-going health of IVF children and a new system for evaluating new IVF techniques or refinements of old ones. Gathering the information, however, may be difficult, because of privacy considerations and the need for informed consent.
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