In-Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, is one of the most common forms of assisted reproductive technologies, or ART. Big Fertility touts IVF as an optimal treatment for those who are struggling with fertility issues. And why wouldn’t they? After all, #BigFertility is a billion-dollar industry. What is not often mentioned in the endorsement of IVF are the violations of children’s rights inherent within the process. While adults undergoing IVF consent to egg extraction health risks and experimentation with numerous embryos until they achieve their gifts of children, the children never consent to:

-The violation of their right to life

-The violation of their right to their mothers and fathers

-Being intentionally exposed to physical and developmental health risks

VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO LIFE

In-Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, is the process where eggs and sperm are retrieved, either from the commissioning man and woman, or from gamete “donors,” then mixed together in an undignified laboratory procedure. These babies are made in glass, or in vitro, rather than in the mysterious secret sanctuary of their mothers’ wombs.

Preimplantation screening

IVF often involves the preimplantation screening of 6- or 7-day old blastocysts (early embryos), to not only determine the likelihood of implantation success, but also screen for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome, and inherited genetic anomalies such as cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy. Embryos are often chosen for transfer based on their likelihood of successful implantation in the womb by a screening process that picks the “best” blastocysts to implant. After these blastocysts are screened, only the ones determined “genetically healthy and normal” are transferred with the hopes of implantation. This eugenic practice opens the door for even further elimination of “defective” children by screening for not only detectable diseases and disorders, but also screening for those which may or may not appear later in life

Researchers have also found that embryos with abnormal cells have the ability to self-correct, or push the abnormal cells out and replace them with normal cells. Eliminating these early embryos, of course, destroys untold numbers of developing human beings that might have later been designated as “good quality.”

The embryos not transferred are then frozen, destroyed, used for scientific research, or, in the best yet still non-ideal scenario, put up for embryo adoption. If it’s decided for any reason that too many embryos have implanted, or the babies are deemed to be the wrong sex, or not developing as the commissioning parents desire, a reduction may be performed—or rather, abortions, until only the desired number and quality remain.

% Of babies born/lost/success rates

Only 7% of lab-created children will be born alive. Most will perish in forgotten freezers, won’t survive “thawing,” fail to implant, be discarded for being non-viable/the wrong sex, be aborted “selectively reduced,” or be donated to research. 

Combining the numbers of embryonic persons who are disposed of, do not survive the thawing process, or are donated to research, IVF disposes of millions of human beings. In 2012, it was found that since 1991, 3.5 million embryos had been created and that only 235,480 had been successfully implanted, 1.7 million having been discarded, with 23,480 being destroyed after their removal from storage.

In 2017 in the United States, based on reports from 448 clinics, there were 284,385 IVF cycles performed, which resulted in 78,052 live-born infants. Whereas in 2018, reported by 456 clinics, of the 309,197 IVF cycles performed, there were 81,478 live infants born as a result. These results show that there has been an increase in the use of IVF as a reproductive technology. This increase in IVF use also brings about an increased number of humans being discarded, destroyed, or indefinitely frozen. 

For those tiny humans placed in frozen limbo, there is no guarantee that they will survive the thawing process. A study published in 2011, revealed a total of 1991 zygotes, 2,880 embryos frozen three days (D3) after fertilization, and 503 blastocysts (six days after fertilization) that were of “good quality” were thawed. The thawed survival rate was 69% for zygotes, 85% for D3 embryos, and 88% for blastocysts. While having seemingly high success rates, the percentage of “good quality” babies who died during the thawing process causes concern. Further, for those babies who survived the thawing process, the implantation rate was a mere 10% for zygotes, 12% for day three embryos, and 14% for blastocysts. 

It’s the general consensus among those in the fertility industry that the younger the eggs, the better the chances of a successful pregnancy, as younger women are able to produce more eggs in one stimulation cycle, as well as produce embryos of higher quality. The more embryos are frozen, the higher the egg-freezing success rates. A study from 2015 found that out of 1,500 women who had undergone the egg-freezing process at age 35 or younger, “the chance of live birth increased from 15% for women who froze just 5 eggs, to 61% for women who froze 10 eggs, and 85% for women who froze 15 or more eggs.” In 2016, a study conducted on 1,171 IVF cycles using frozen eggs, found that “…for women under 30, each egg retrieved had an 8.67% chance of resulting in a child; for women over 40, that chance dropped to less than 3% per egg. So, to achieve a 50% estimated live birth rate, a woman over 40 will need to freeze significantly more eggs than a woman under 30.” 

For the lucky embryos who do get a shot at implantation and avoid “selective reduction,” the average live birth rate among women aged 35-37 (using their own eggs) is 42.8%. Women aged 38-40 have a live birth rate of 35.5%. Further, after the first IVF cycle, less than 30% of women have a live birth, and there’s a paltry 45% success rate after three full cycles of IVF. Two-thirds of patients will be successful after six or more cycles. How many little lives are being lost through the trial-and-error transfer process? 

Upon transfer, the risk of implantation failure can also occur even if an embryo is deemed healthy, due to uterine polyps, cysts, or, the most common cause, an inhospitable environment for the embryo due to a thin uterine lining. Even if the uterine lining is sufficient and there are no other health issues, there’s still no guarantee that an embryo will transfer successfully, as there’s no 100% reliable molecular data to show that an endometrium will be receptive during an IVF cycle. It’s also been found that transferring multiple embryos instead of one does not increase chances of pregnancy. 

The number of embryos created through the IVF process is already in the millions, with at least a million embryos in frozen storage. #BigFertility already profits heavily from the creation and commodification of human beings, with its growth expected to increase from $18,475 billion in 2021 to $28,236 billion in 2025.

PHYSICAL RISKS TO CHILDREN

The IVF process consists of multiple steps, from hyperovulation and extraction of eggs to manipulating and fertilizing embryos in a petri dish. These steps expose embryos to unnatural environments with changes in hormone levels due to altering the egg maturation process and changes in temperature, pH, and oxygen tension. These steps occur at a time when embryos are most vulnerable, as these processes will never occur again, and changes in the environments of these small humans can contribute to epigenetic modification. The epigenetic modification most associated with the IVF process is “DNA methylation,” which regulates cellular processes like chromosome structure, the transcription of DNA, and embryonic development. If the methylation cycle doesn’t work efficiently, this can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune and neurological disorders.

Epigenetic damage can also occur during the embryo defrosting process, as “The efficiency and safety of cryopreservation methods is usually assessed by measuring cell survival rates immediately after thawing, but this parameter does not measure the impact of more subtle effects on cellular processes, and in particular on epigenetic mechanisms. Such epigenetic marks control the expression of genes and reflect the influence of developmental and environmental factors. Moreover, epigenetic marks can be passed on to daughter cells through cell division. There is also increasing evidence that epigenetic markers can be passed on through sexual reproduction via gametes and can influence disease risk or even cause disease in the next generation.”

These epidemiological studies have shown that besides an increased risk for disease, children conceived through ART are more susceptible to fetal growth restriction and preterm birth in both multiple and singleton pregnancies.

Cardiovascular risks to children 

Since these epigenetic alterations can affect the cardiovascular system, researchers have found that healthy children conceived through IVF without any other detectable cardiovascular risk factors have an elevated risk of future cardiovascular issues, which can progress in severity to arterial hypertension. In a 2012 study of 65 children conceived through IVF and 57 naturally conceived children, it was found that “…low-mediated dilation of the brachial artery was 25% smaller…carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity was significantly faster, carotid intima-media thickness was significantly greater, and the systolic pulmonary artery pressure at high altitude…was 30% higher in ART-conceived children than in controls.” Other studies from 2015 and 2017 show that cardiac systolic and diastolic function changes can occur during childhood in IVF-conceived children, leading to early-onset myocardial alterations. There was found to be an abnormal expression of proteins, proteins responsible for blood coagulation and iron and lipid metabolism, and findings that show an increase in blood pressure and higher blood vessel thickness, indicating the increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Children conceived through IVF also show higher fasting blood glucose levels as well as impaired insulin sensitivity. These children have shown suboptimal glucose and cardiovascular metabolic profiles compared to naturally conceived children, leading to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Women who conceive via IVF have a 55 percent higher risk of premature birth, and those who undergo ovarian hyperstimulation have a 45 percent higher risk. Infants born prematurely have a higher risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, premature puberty, and cardiovascular and neurological diseases. It was found that those children born prematurely and with very low birth weight were, around five to six years of age, taller than naturally conceived children around six to 10 years of age. This increased height and rapid weight gain is another contributing factor to higher blood pressure levels. 

Furthermore, there is a higher risk of birth defects such as malformations of the eye, heart, and genitourinary system in IVF-conceived children. A 2012 Chinese research project led scientists to create a database of studies of six main types of birth defects: nervous system; genitourinary system; digestive system; circulatory system; musculoskeletal system; and ear, face, and they found notable correlations between IVF/ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), and the six types of birth defects. Children conceived with ART may also be at an increased risk of unspecified infectious diseases, asthma, genitourinary diseases, and epilepsy, and those born after ICSI were found more likely to have a genetic condition, as 28 percent of those conceived via ICSI had a genetic disorder, as opposed to only 12-13 percent of naturally conceived children. 

Child risk of Cancer/Brain Damage/Tumors

Barbara Luke of Michigan State University studied the connection between birth defects and cancer in children conceived naturally and via IVF. Children born with major birth defects through IVF had approximately seven times the cancer risk as opposed to children with birth defects conceived naturally, of which the cancer risk was only three times more likely.

The World Journal of Clinical Pediatrics found that “children conceived through IVF have a higher rate of brain damage, often associated with multiple gestation. But even for babies that were implanted as single embryos, the risk was found to be higher, which calls into question the techniques related to IVF including embryo cultures, and the low quality of egg cells usually obtained after the administration of fertility drugs and hormone therapies.”

A study published in 2017 by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found, after observing large numbers of children for up to 18 years, that the children conceived through IVF or ovulation induction treatments had a higher risk of pediatric neoplasms, or tumors. 

Lastly, there are prevalent issues with pubertal development in, specifically, IVF-conceived girls. While pubertal males tend to develop typically, females show less advanced breast development and more advanced bone age. This advanced bone age can cause the epiphyseal plates in the bones to stop aging prematurely, leading to various growth disorders.

DEVELOPMENTAL RISKS TO CHILDREN

Aside from physical ailments, how do children created through ART fare with intellectual development

The Perth Hospital Telethon Kids Institute observed data over a duration of eight years, comparing 2,876 children born through ART with those conceived naturally, and found that those born through ART were 58 percent more likely to have intellectual disabilities by age eight or older. Researchers found that ICSI, specifically, was the riskiest for the development of intellectual disabilities, as children conceived with this method had the most prominent risk of impairment. With the use of ICSI, 1 in 32 children were diagnosed with some form of intellectual disability as opposed to 1 in 59 children conceived naturally. 

The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology also published a systematic review of 35 studies which concluded that “the available high-quality evidence indicates that specific treatments may give rise to different effects on cognitive development, with certain treatments, including ICSI, associated with cognitive impairment.”

This research is in addition to the higher risk of preterm birth inherent within the IVF process that can also contribute to intellectual disabilities. According to a study from Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, “Women who become pregnant through in vitro fertilization, or IVF, have an 80% higher risk for spontaneous preterm birth before both 37 and 34 weeks gestation, compared with those who conceived naturally.” Dr. Paolo Cavoretto and his colleagues of San Raffaele Hospital found after comparing 61,677 births, 8,044 of which were a result of IVF, that 10.1 percent of IVF births were spontaneous preterm births as compared to 5.5 percent of naturally conceived births. They also found that, “spontaneous preterm birth events prior to 34 weeks gestation also significantly increased among those who conceived through IVF/ICSI…with events occurring in 3.6% of IVF/ICSI births and 2.1% of naturally conceived births.”

IVF’s violation of children’s right to life and the numerous health risks to both women and children inherent within the process should be cause for concern about the continuation of this #bigfertility practice. 

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