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Estimated Number of IVF Babies Hits the 5 Million Mark

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by Leigh Ann Woodruff, July 2, 2012

In just 34 years — the blink of an eye as far as time goes since the birth of Louise Brown in July 1978 — the estimated number of children conceived and born via assisted reproduction technology (ART) has reached 5 million mark, according to a calculation by the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART). ICMART will present the figures this week at the 28th annual meeting of ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology) in Istanbul, Turkey.

"FIVE MILLION!! Five million dreams come true. Five million families that may never have been created," says Robert Stillman, M.D., a fertility doctor and medical director of Shady Grove Fertility in the Washington, D.C., area. "The professionals who have been part of this miracle from the beginning to those recently joining the medical teams worldwide have stood on the shoulders of giants — Dr. [Robert G.] Edwards was recently and appropriately recognized with the Nobel Prize in Medicine."

Researchers made the calculation based on the number of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment cycles recorded worldwide up to 2008, and then added in estimations for the following three years. The cumulative total of births was put at 4.6 million last year, and then reached an approximate total of 5 million this year.

ART is defined as all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are handled. The procedures involve surgically removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with sperm in the laboratory (in vitro fertilization), and returning them to the woman’s body or donating them to another woman. ICSI is a procedure used in ART in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg.

Commenting on this remarkable milestone, David Adamson, M.D., a fertility doctor with Fertility Physicians of Northern California, USA, and chair of ICMART, says: "It means that this technology has been highly successful in treating infertile patients. Millions of families with children have been created, thereby reducing the burden of infertility.

"The technology has improved greatly over the years to increase pregnancy rates," he continues. "The babies are as healthy as those from other infertile patients who conceive spontaneously. The technology is available globally in many different cultures. The major barriers to access are economic, and societal in some situations. With these accomplishments as a technology, and with recognition of Professor Robert Edwards as a Nobel Laureate, IVF is firmly established now in the mainstream of medicine."

According to the most recent 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 99,467 IVF cycles with fresh, non-donor eggs; 25,809 cycles with frozen, non-donor eggs; and 16,531 cycles with donor eggs for a total of 144,807 ART cycles in the United States. In Europe, the 2009 data is the most recent data is from 2009 and shows that there were 537,287 ART cycles that year. The global need for ART is estimated to be at least 1,500 cycles per million population per year.

According to Dr. Stillman, there is even more good news about the 5 million milestone. "The vast majority of these 5 million births have been in the last few years, with a steady rapid rise from the earliest years starting in 1978, and many many many more are yet to come as the science continues to improve the odds and safety of each IVF cycle," he says.

"Congratulations to all the families," he continues. "And, boy, would I like to see a group picture!!


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