Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
The debate over the morality of performing genetic tests on embryos–and deciding not to use those carrying deadly genetic disorders for potential pregnancies–continues, as a New York Times report explains:
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….The procedure also raises unsettling ethical questions that trouble advocates for the disabled and have left some doctors struggling with what they should tell their patients. When are prospective parents justified in discarding embryos? Is it acceptable, for example, for diseases like GSS [Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease], that develop in adulthood? What if a gene only increases the risk of a disease? And should people be able to use it to pick whether they have a boy or girl? A recent international survey found that 2 percent of more than 27,000 uses of preimplantation diagnosis were made to choose a child’s sex.
In the United States, there are no regulations that limit the method’s use. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, whose members provide preimplantation diagnosis, says it is “ethically justified” to prevent serious adult diseases for which “no safe, effective interventions are available.” The method is “ethically allowed” for conditions “of lesser severity” or for which the gene increases risk but does not guarantee a disease.
There is no question that the method’s use is increasing rapidly, though no group collects comprehensive data, said Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, vice president for research at the March of Dimes and past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
About half of American women who are of reproductive age don’t discuss reproductive issues with their doctors, compounding some misinformation and confusion around fertility and pregnancy, according to new research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. More from Time.com:
As a result, the researchers, from the Yale School of Medicine, found that women between ages 18 and 40 weren’t aware of some the important factors that influence fertility and their ability to get pregnant, as well as about basic prenatal practices once they were expecting.
Among the most notable findings, which were published in the journal, Fertility & Sterility :
- 30% of the women reported that they only visited a reproductive health provider less than once a year or not at all.
- 50% of the women did not know that taking multivitamins and folic acid are recommended to avoid birth defects.
- A little over 25% of women did not know that things like STDs, smoking and obesity impact fertility.
- 20% did not know that aging can impact fertility and increase rates of miscarriage
- 50% of the women thought that having sex multiple times in a day increased their likelihood of getting pregnant
- Over 33% of women thought that different sex positions can increase their odds of getting pregnant
- 10% did not know that they should have sex before ovulation to increase the chances of getting pregnant instead of after ovulation
Are you maximizing your fertility? Take our short, five-question quiz to find out.
Image: Pregnant woman, 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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