(RxWiki News) The first "test tube baby," Louise Brown was born in July, 1978. Now, 34 years later, she's one of 5 million babies born by in vitro fertilization (IVF).
This figure, presented at a fertility conference last week, represents the successful cycles of IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI, where sperm is directly injected into an egg) across the world up until 2008, plus estimations through 2011.
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David Adamson, MD, of Fertility Physicians of Northern California, is chairman of the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), the group that presented the figures at the conference.
The total number of babies born using IVF and/or ICSI technology included 4.6 million in 2008 and will be approximately 5 million today.
ICMART estimates that approximately 1.5 million cycles of assisted reproduction occur across the globe every year, leading to 350,000 babies born every year to families who have struggled with infertility issues.
"The technology has improved greatly over the years to increase pregnancy rates. The babies are as healthy as those from other infertile patients who conceive spontaneously," Dr. Adamson said.
"The technology is available globally in many different cultures. The major barriers to access are economic, and societal in some situations."
The US and Japan lead the world in IVF and ICSI usage among world countries, though European countries as a whole surpass the US and Japan.
Currently, the success rate for a single "fresh" embryo transfer (as opposed to a frozen embryo) of IVF and ICSI is about 32 percent.
One of the more controversial aspects of IVF technology relates to the number of embryos transferred, since more transferred embryos can lead to pregnancies with multiples like twins, triplets or more.
As the technology has improved, however, the rate of embryo transfers has declined while birth rates have improved, especially in Europe.
"The overall trend in Europe of transferring fewer embryos continues," said Dr. Anna Pia Ferraretti, chairman of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's IVF Monitoring Consortium.
"We found in 2009 that, compared with previous years, fewer three-embryo transfers and more single embryo transfers were performed," Dr. Ferraretti said. "As a result of this trend, assisted reproductive technology triplets have fallen below 1 percent, and, for the first time, the twin delivery rate was below 20 percent (19.6 percent)."
The announcement was presented July 1 at the 28th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Istanbul. The numbers have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal and should be regarded as preliminary.