Thursday, July 01, 2010

Do IVF children suffer birth defects? Largest ever study is launched to find out

This sounds a bit naive. Surely a lot would depend on the health of the mother to start with. Where infertility is related to generally poor health or even to some specific ailment, the offspring might be expected to inherit that poor health genetically. Many ailments are hereditary

And what is the point? We already know that only a tiny minority of IVF babies have health problems. This is just a fishing expedition wasting the taxpayers' money -- motivated by the usual nasty dislike of anything that is popular

More than 100,000 test-tube babies are to have their health tracked amid fears they are at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes in old age.

Some 4.3million babies have been born through IVF since Louise Brown in 1978 but little is known about whether they will suffer health problems in the years to come. They are already feared ["feared"? Fears are a dime a dozen] to be at higher risk of a host of problems as babies and in childhood, ranging from birth defects to autism and cerebral palsy.

In addition, new technologies, such as egg freezing may carry extra risks, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, which is funding the study, warned.

Karl Nygren, deputy head of Eshre's IVF safety group, said that the premature births that often occur in IVF may cause problems many years down the line. The first test-tube babies are still in their early 30s.

Dr Nygren, of Stockholm's Sofia Hospital, said: 'We don't know what happens to these children when they are 40 or 50 or 60 years old. 'There is a theory that says if you are born prematurely you might suffer more diabetes and heart disease but we don't know if that's going to happen. 'We know a lot but we don't know everything - we will have to continue to follow what's happening.'

Dr Nygren told ESHRE's annual conference that the risks were low - but needed to be carefully monitored. He said: 'The bottom line is a good one. At the beginning people thought that maybe monsters would be born because the technique was very dangerous. 'We now know that is not true but we need to watch.'

Some of the health problems seen with IVF are due to the high number of twins and triplets born through the technique. As they tend to be lighter than other babies and born prematurely, they tend to be more illness-prone than other children. In addition, infertile women are more likely to give birth prematurely, for reasons that are unclear.

It is also possible that chlamydia infection, stress and other factors which may have affected the mother's fertility go on to impact on the baby's development in the womb - or that the drugs used create problems.

The researchers will scrutinise the birth, medical and death records of all babies born through IVF in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland since 1982 and compare the results with data on people of similar age conceived naturally. The first results are due next year, with updates very three years.

News of the study comes amid warnings that a 'kinder form' of IVF that avoids the side-effects associated with high doses of fertility drugs may have problems of its own. Half the price of conventional IVF, in-vitro maturation or IVM, involves maturing eggs in the lab, before fertilising them and putting them back in the women. It is particularly recommended for those with health problems such as polycystic ovarian syndrome which could make them react badly to the drugs usually used to mature eggs within the body.

But a study of 165 babies born after IVM found they were up to 9 per cent heavier than other IVF babies and more likely to be delivered by caesarean - an op that carries risks [More weasel language. ALL medical procedures carry risks -- but we have just been told that Caesarians do not carry GREATER risks!] for both mother and child. Pregnancies were slightly longer and the miscarriage rate higher.

Calling for a larger study into the issue, Nottingham University researcher Dr Peter Sjoblom said: 'These findings suggest a significant impact of the IVM procedure on early development. Caution is called for before proceeding with IVM on a large scale.

'For the sake of the health and safety of the babies and their mothers, we need to be following IVM babies from the moment the eggs are matured in the laboratory through to their birth and into adulthood. 'We must make it clear to the public that, at the moment, no major health problems have been observed in children born after IVM. 'Nevertheless, all fertility clinics should share their detailed data, so that we can, hopefully, conclude that there is no reason for concern.'

Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society, welcomed the long-term study in into the safety of IVF. He said: 'I do think it needs to be done, if for nothing more than to reassure the public. We haven't had any hard evidence that it is unsafe.'


A burst of realism from the British government

Jamie Oliver campaigned for healthier school meals in 'Jamie's School Dinners.' However uptake of the dinners has dropped

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley argued the celebrity chef’s efforts to improve children’s diets had actually made matters worse. His attack, in a speech to doctors at a British Medical Association conference in Brighton, angered Mr Oliver – who insisted it was an insult to dinner ladies.

Mr Lansley said lecturing the public on food and health was wrong and he claimed fewer children were eating school meals following the campaign. ‘Jamie Oliver, quite rightly, was talking about trying to improve the diet of children in schools and improving school meals, but the net effect was the number of children eating school meals in many of these places didn’t go up, it went down,’ he said. ‘Children are actually spending more money outside school, buying snacks in local shops, instead of on school lunches.’

However Mr Oliver declared: ‘I’m not encouraged by the news the new health minister has summed up eight years of hard work in a few lines for the sake of a headline. ‘To say School Dinners hasn’t worked is not just inaccurate but is also an insult to the hard work of hundreds of thousands of dinner ladies, teachers, headteachers and parent helpers who strive to feed schoolkids a nutritious, hot meal for 190 days of the year. ‘I’ll post him a copy of the series as he’s clearly never seen it.’

There was a sharp drop in the number of children having school meals after the 2005 campaign revealed the poor quality of the food given to children. However, the most recent figures for 2008/09 show a slight increase in uptake. Some 43.9 per cent of primary school pupils and 36 per cent in secondary schools are having school dinners.

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, described Mr Lansley’s latest comments as ‘deeply distressing’. He said: ‘I think what Jamie Oliver did was excellent. ‘The whole thing managed to improve school meals and pushed the government into investing more money into them.’

Mr Lansley’s comments are at odds with his stance in opposition when he argued the Tories needed to understand Mr Oliver’s appeal if they were reconnect with voters.


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