More than 8 million IVF infants have been born worldwide: report

The CDC approximates that each year, 1.7 percent of all infants born in the U.S. are conceived with technology

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published July 5, 2018 6:30PM (EDT)


At least 8 million infants have been born as a result of In Vitro Fertilization in the last 40 years, according to a report from the International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies. The report’s findings were presented this week at the 34th annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona, Spain.

IVF, an assisted reproductive technology (ART) process in which an egg is fertilized by a sperm outside of the body, followed by one or more embryos transferred to the uterus for implantation, has been around since the 1970s. The procedure’s first successful birth —  a child named Louise Brown — occurred in 1978 in England. Since then, its popularity and success rates have steadily risen. While some experts may argue that 8 million is a conservative number, the report indeed draws attention to the normalization of ART procedures around the world.

“Better understanding of ART increases societal acceptance and support for ART research and clinical access,” the study’s abstract explains.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 there were 263,577 assisted-reproductive technology cycles performed in the United States at an estimated 463 clinics, which resulted in 65,996 live births. The CDC approximates that each year now 1.7 percent of all infants born in the U.S. are conceived with some form of assisted reproductive technology like IVF.

However, access to such technology is often dependent on financial factors, as the  International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies study notes.

“The number of ART cycles continues to increase, but utilization is still very influenced by affordable access to ART which is related to insurance or public funding,” the abstract explains. “Regional differences persist in the age of the population treated, number of embryos transferred, rate of multiple births, and other factors.”

According to the National Infertility Association, cost is the number one reason families struggling with infertility don't seek treatment. The average cost for IVF in the U.S. is reportedly around $23,000. However, some American policymakers are taking steps to alleviate the financial burden. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced a bill to Congress in May that would require health insurance providers to cover infertility treatments like IVF.

Countries like the U.S., who have falling fertility rates —  the pace at which American women in their childbearing years are having children — could likely benefit from government funding. Economic anxiety is believed to be one reason why women are delaying having children, which can lead them to seeking assisted reproductive technology solutions, as Salon has previously reported.

“It's definitely true that a smaller share of Millennial women [ages] 20 to 35 are moms (48 percent) today compared with the share of Gen X women who were moms by that same age (57 percent),” Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at Pew Research, told Salon in May. “It's possible that Millennial women are delaying motherhood because of economic anxieties, but we do not have evidence that explicitly shows that.”

Genevieve Diaz, a 27-year-old living in San Francisco, told Salon previously that the thought of having children became a more distant one when she moved from a full-time job to starting her own business.

“The thing I think about is by the time I pay off my student debt, will I still be able to have kids?” she told Salon. “Will I have enough time to be fertile, have kids, and build this business, put food on the table for myself, and live in San Francisco?”

Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a fertility specialist in the San Francisco Bay Area whose patients call her the “egg whisperer,” said that the world is experiencing a “historical shift” when it comes to women having children later and seeking out IVF and similar treatments.

“This represents a historical shift and is emblematic of the societal shifts happening,” she told Salon. “We are living longer. We are delaying parts of adult life. We are focusing on our careers, traveling, and taking time to find the right mate. Society is changing but biology isn't.”

In addition to age, and financial burdens, there is more research being conducted that is shifting the conversation on fertility overall, concluding that a mother and father's health are equally responsible for the likelihood of their fertility as a couple.

“All roads are pointing toward men being a very important part of the fertility picture and their health being a large part of that picture,” Dr. Paul Turek, a physician and men's reproductive health specialist, told Salon.

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By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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