CDC: Fertility procedures on the rise, despite risks for women and children

Thursday, February 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Fertility procedures in the United States jumped by 27 percent in just two years, according to government researchers who said they are worried about the risks for mothers and children.

Procedures increased from 64,724 in 1996 to 81,899 in 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in its first comprehensive look at assisted reproductive technology.

CDC doctors declined to say why the popularity of the procedures is growing so quickly, but other experts attributed it to older couples trying to have children and a population more confident of fertility technology.

The CDC warned that assisted fertility carries risks: The nearly 82,000 procedures in 1998 led to only about 20,000 live births, and when there were live births there were multiple babies 56 percent of the time.

Women with twins, triplets and higher numbers of children are at significantly higher risk for pregnancy complications, and the babies themselves are at risk for low birthweight and long-term disability.

Multiple births happen only about 3 percent of the time for women who become pregnant naturally.

``We hope the information will provide a starting point for patients to discuss some of these risks with their providers when they're planning the specifics of the treatment,'' said Laura Schieve, chief of the CDC's assisted reproductive technology unit.

Assisted reproductive technology, or ART, includes procedures such as in vitro fertilization, where both egg and sperm are handled outside the body. Artificial insemination was not tracked.

Part of the increase can be explained by a jump in the number of clinics that offer the services _ there were 390 in 1998, up from 330 two years earlier, according to the CDC.

But the rise in popularity is mostly a reflection of couples who are more confident the process will produce children _ and willing to take the risks, said Dr. Jamie Grifo, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

``They're incredibly highly motivated, and highly intellectual,'' he said. ``They're well aware of this, and on top of that they're well-counseled about these risks.''

Grifo said he believes the number of fertility procedures is rising in part because more couples who want children are waiting until later in life, when women have more difficulty conceiving.

California led the nation with 10,615 fertility procedures in 1998. The CDC said none were performed in Alaska, Idaho, Maine and Montana because there were no clinics in those states.