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Infertility: Major Progress Since 1978

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Infertility: Major Progress Since 1978

December 16, 2008

Remarkable progress has been made in the search for solutions to fertility problems since the first child was conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 1978 in England (in 1981 in the United States.) The odds of both pregnancy and a live birth have increased substantially with assisted reproductive technology treatments. Of the 138,198 treatments performed at 483 centers in the U.S. in 2006, 41,343 deliveries occurred, resulting in 54,656 infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Assisted Reproductive Technology Report. The CDC was tentatively scheduled to release a report with the 2007 numbers in December 2009, but the agency has not released that report yet. Newer reproductive technologies, such as Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) and Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are helping couples for whom IVF alone is unlikely to work. A 2002 study, the latest information cited by the CDC, revealed that about 2 percent of the 62 million American women of reproductive age had an infertility-related medical appointments that year and 8 percent had an infertility-related appointment sometime in the past. Controversies remain, such as what to do with the more than 500,000 unused frozen embryos in the U.S., how much to permit egg donors and surrogate mothers to receive as compensation, and what the upper age limits should be for use of the technology. In addition, studies are under way to assess whether children conceived with IVF might be more vulnerable to chromosomal or genetic anomalies or various diseases during adulthood. Updated February 2010

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