Sally Has 2 Mommies and 1 Daddy

Infertility Update: Making babies -- and birth defects?

Illustration by Clifford Alejandro

Illustration by Clifford Alejandro

In February, we reported on unregulated fertility treatments that expose thousands of women and their future children to known and unknown hazards each year ["Sally Has 2 Mommies and 1 Daddy," March]. Research suggests that assisted reproductive technologies (ART) -- like in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection -- may double the risk of serious birth defects. Still, theyre routinely offered to patients, with little governmental oversight. Our feature referenced at least 12 recent journal articles that suggest a link between ART and heart defects, genetic disorders, childhood cancer and other syndromes. And the studies keep coming. On Jan. 15, British geneticists reported in the Journal of Medical Genetics that children conceived through ART were at a four-fold increased risk for Beckwith-Wiedemann, a genetic disorder that causes enlarged organs and childhood cancer. One week later, a Dutch study published in The Lancet reported a five- to seven-fold increased risk of retinoblastoma (a malignant eye tumor) in kids conceived through ART. "There is an enormous paucity of information on the outcomes of [ART]," says Kathy Hudson, director of the Johns Hopkins Genetics and Public Policy Center. What we need now: large-scale follow-up studies.