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Questions Raised Over Safety of In-vitro Fertilization

r> But the Human Fertilisation And Embryology Authority (HFEA), which licenses fertility clinics, is running a public consultation to examine whether single-embryo implantation should become the norm. While this shift will address the problems associated with multiple births, it's not the end of the matter. For reasons that remain unclear, there are also higher incidences of post-birth difficulties with single IVF babies.

Studies have shown that they are two-and-a-half-times more likely to have a low birth weight and small babies are known to be more likely to grow up to develop vascular disease, diabetes, hypertension or osteoporosis. Another area causing particular concern is a procedure known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which involves passing a single sperm directly into an egg. Research has found that ICSI babies have three times the rate of birth defects of naturally conceived infants.

This question of second-generation infertility is an area of particular interest, and given the relative infancy of the science of IVF, it is something that will become clear only in years to come. At the same time it is also acknowledged that the risks remain small - in other words, if a natural child has a one-in-5,000 risk of a deformity, even if the risk doubles through IVF it remains a remote possibility. But medics insist it cannot be entirely ignored.

"The risks certainly aren't so big that we should not use this technology, but we should use it cautiously," says Professor William Ledger, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Sheffield. Possibly more and more people are turning to IVF almost as a lifestyle choice, as a convenience, and that could have damaging consequences in the long run. There is a fairy tale ending to the story of the 28-year-old Lee Cowden. Following her heart attack in 2004, Lee who was infertile after being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome as a te
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