NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Globally, the use of assisted reproduction technology, or ART, to overcome fertility problems continues to increase, and multiple births remain a concern, according to a new report.
"There was no real surprise in the trends, which are consistent with previous trends," Dr. Jacques de Mouzon told Reuters Health.
ART is an umbrella term for fertility techniques such as in vitro fertilization or ICSI, in which a sperm is injected directly into an egg in the lab.
In the journal Human Reproduction, de Mouzon from Bicetre Hospital in Paris, France and his colleagues present the Eighth World Report on ART, looking at the global practice and results of ART for the year 2002.
The number of cycles of ART treatment increased an estimated 25 percent since the last report for 2000, the authors note, while the number of babies born worldwide through ART rose from 219,000 in 2000 to 246,000 in 2002.
Between 2000 and 2002, delivery rates increased nearly 19 percent after in vitro fertilization, about 20 percent after ICSI, and 12 percent for frozen embryo transfer (FET) -- despite decreases in the average number of embryos transferred.
Still, the researchers note, the percentage of transfers with four or more embryos remained high in South Korea, Latin America, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Multiple pregnancies greatly increased the percentage of babies dying before or soon after birth, and the rates of premature births.
"The main public health problem still concerns the high rate of multiple pregnancies," de Mouzon said. "It has already decreased, because of a decrease in the number of transferred embryos, but is still high in many countries."
He added that questions are being raised about the reason for the increase in ICSI usage, "which, if not justified by male infertility or fertilization failure in previous ART cycles, results in higher costs and, eventually, higher risks, with no gain."
SOURCE: Human Reproduction, May 28, 2009.