Monday, May 20th, 2013
A new method of performing in vitro fertilization (IVF), one of the most common medical interventions used to help infertile couples become pregnant, has shown promising initial success rates. Developed in London, the new technique involves taking time-lapse photos of embryos as they develop, enabling doctors to choose the most “low-risk” embryos–with the lowest probability of having chromosomal abnormalities or other defects that could stop their growth–to transfer into a hopeful mother-to-be. NBC News has more:
In their study, published in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine Online, the team’s chances of producing a successful live birth after in-vitro fertilization (IVF) were increased by 56 percent using the new technique compared to the standard method of selecting embryos that look best through a microscope.
“In the 35 years I have been in this field, this is probably the most exciting and significant development that can be of value to all patients seeking IVF,” said Simon Fishel, a leading fertility doctor and director at the IVF clinic operator CARE Fertility where the technique is being developed.
Independent scientists not involved in the work welcomed it as a significant advance but said full randomized controlled trials – the gold standard in medicine – should be conducted before it is adopted as mainstream practice.
“This paper is interesting because we really do need to make advances in selecting the best embryos created during IVF,” said Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, chair of the British Fertility Society.
“The idea of monitoring embryo development more closely is being used increasingly in clinics around the world and so it is good to see the science involved submitted to peer review and publication,” he added. “All too often, developments in IVF are trumpeted as advances when they remain unproven.”
Experts say that today, as many as 1 to 2 percent of babies in the Western world are conceived through IVF. The standard methods of selecting embryos are based largely on what they look like through a microscope, and many IVF cycles fail because the embryo chosen and transferred to the womb fails to develop.
Image: Petri dish containing embryos, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Dr. Robert Edwards, a member of the team that pioneered the reproductive assistance technique called in vitro fertililzation (IVF), has died at age 87, according to news reports. IVF is a standard treatment for infertility, and millions of babies have been born since the technique was first developed in 1978. More from The Associated Press:
Together with Dr. Patrick Steptoe, Edwards developed in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which resulted in the birth in 1978 of the world’s first test tube baby, Louise Brown. At the time, the two were accused of playing God and interfering with nature.
Since then, the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology estimates that about 5 million babies have been born using the technique, which creates embryos in the laboratory before transferring them into a woman.
Edwards’ ‘‘success in IVF was one of the 20th century’s great medical feats, pursued at long odds and despite great opprobrium,’’ International Federation of Fertility Societies President Joe Leigh Simpson said.
‘‘He laid the groundwork for infertile couples worldwide to have children, with 1-4 per cent of all babies in Europe, North America and Australia now born by assisted reproductive technologies started by Professor Edwards. He will be greatly missed.’’
Experts say about 350,000 babies are born by IVF every year, mostly to people with infertility problems, single people and gay and lesbian couples.
‘‘(Edwards) was an extraordinary scientist,’’ said Dr. Peter Braude, emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynecology at King’s College London, who was at Cambridge when Edwards and Steptoe were developing IVF.
‘‘There was such hysteria around the kind of work he was doing,’’ Braude said, noting that Edwards stopped his research for two years after he published details on how he had created embryos in the laboratory. ‘‘He wanted to work out what the right thing to do was, whether he should continue or whether he was out on a limb.’’
Braude said Edwards collected donor eggs from women in Oldham, where Steptoe worked. Edwards then put the eggs into test tubes which he strapped to his legs to keep them warm before catching the train to Cambridge, where he would attempt to fertilize them in the laboratory.
After Brown was born, Braude recalled a celebration at Cambridge, where scientists toasted Edwards and Steptoe’s achievement by drinking champagne out of plastic cups.
Braude said public opinion has evolved considerably since then.
‘‘I think people now understand that (Edwards) only had the best motivation,’’ he said. ‘‘There are few biologists that have done something so practical and made a huge difference for the entire world.’’
In 2010, Edwards was awarded the Nobel prize in medicine or physiology for the development of IVF.
Image: IVF laboratory, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
Surrogate pregnancy is not uncommon, and it usually ends well for all involved. But a story out of Connecticut and Michigan is almost operatic in its complexity, drama, and high stakes. CNN.com tells the story of Crystal Kelley, who acted as a gestational carrier to a Connecticut couple who wanted a fourth child and had frozen embryos from previous in vitro fertilization cycles.
Kelley became pregnant, but a routine ultrasound uncovered a number of severe birth defects in the fetus, including brain and heart abnormalities as well as a severely cleft lip and palate. The biological parents, on hearing the news, wanted Kelley to terminate the pregnancy, but Kelley refused.
After a legal battle erupted–the contract Kelley had signed stipulated “abortion in case of severe fetus abnormality,” but didn’t specify what that meant–the biological parents said they wanted to take custody of the child at birth and then turn her over to Connecticut’s state-run foster care system. The case became even more complicated when it was discovered that the couple had used an anonymous egg donor to make the embryo.
Kelley, disturbed by all options on the table, fled to Michigan, where she would be considered to be the baby’s mother under that state’s laws.
While in Michigan, Kelley gave birth to the girl and found adoptive parents for her. From CNN:
Baby S. — her adoptive parents are comfortable using her first initial — has a long road in front of her. She’s already had one open-heart surgery and surgery on her intestines, and in the next year she’ll need one or two more cardiac surgeries in addition to procedures to repair her cleft lip and palate. Later in childhood she’ll need surgeries on her jaw and ear and more heart surgeries.
Her adoptive parents, who asked to remain anonymous to protect their family’s privacy, know Baby S. might not be with them for long. The cardiac procedures she needs are risky, and her heterotaxy and holoprosencephaly, though mild, carry a risk of early death, according to doctors.
If Baby S. does survive, there’s a 50% chance she won’t be able to walk, talk or use her hands normally.
In some ways, Baby S. looks different from other 8-month-olds babies. In addition to the facial abnormalities, she’s very small, weighing only 11 pounds and she gets food through a tube directly into her stomach so she’ll grow faster.
Her adoptive parents know some people look at her and see a baby born to suffer — a baby who’s suffering could have been prevented with an abortion.
But that’s not the way they see it. They see a little girl who’s defied the odds, who constantly surprises her doctors with what she’s able to do — make eye contact, giggle at her siblings, grab toys, eye strangers warily.
“S. wakes up every single morning with an infectious smile. She greets her world with a constant sense of enthusiasm,” her mother said in an e-mail to CNN. “Ultimately, we hold onto a faith that in providing S. with love, opportunity, encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of achieving….”
….Just as there are two ways to look at Baby S., there are two ways to look at Crystal Kelley, the woman who carried her.
In one view, she’s a saint who fought at great personal sacrifice for an unborn child whose own parents did not want her to live. In another view, she recklessly absconded with someone else’s child and brought into the world a baby who faces serious medical challenges when that wasn’t her decision to make.
Image: Pregnant woman in hospital, via Shutterstock
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abortion, adoption, donor eggs, gestational surrogate, in vitro fertilization, infant surgery, special needs babies, surgery, surrogacy, surrogate | Categories:
Must Read, Parenting News
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
Dangerous blood clots during pregnancy remain relatively rare, according to a new study, but the risk of this potentially life-threatening complication may be higher in women who became pregnant through in vitro fertilization (IVF). More from The New York Times:
Swedish researchers compared 23,498 women who had given birth after I.V.F. from 1990 to 2008 with 116,960 women of the same age and general health who had natural pregnancies. The results appeared online last week in the journal BMJ.
Women with I.V.F. pregnancies had more than four times the risk of venous thrombosis during the first trimester, compared with those with natural pregnancies, and almost seven times the risk of pulmonary embolism. The difference narrowed, but persisted, as the pregnancies progressed.
The I.V.F. procedure induces multiple egg production with high doses of hormones, and the authors suggest that this may be the cause.
“Women who are going to have I.V.F. should know these findings,” said the lead author, Dr. Peter Henriksson, a professor of internal medicine at the Karolinska Institute. “And if they have had blood clots themselves, or have relatives with thrombosis, they should be treated with blood thinners.”
Image: Pregnant woman in hospital, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
A new way of freezing donors’ eggs for transfer to women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) is improving the chances for many women to achieve a successful pregnancy when they cannot become pregnant using their own eggs. From CNN.com:
Egg freezing technology has improved so much that in the past six months, egg banks have started websites where patients can order frozen eggs and have them shipped. Fertility experts say it constitutes a paradigm shift, and they predict that in the not-too-distant future, nearly all donor eggs will be bought frozen online instead of fresh locally, making the eggs more accessible—logistically and financially—to more women.
“This really makes a huge difference,” says Dr. Serena Chen, director of the Ovum Donation Program at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas in New Jersey, where [Debbie] Vernon is a patient.
Last week, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine took the “experimental” label off frozen eggs, which will likely help the industry grow even faster.
Image: IVF lab, via Shutterstock
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