Understand fertility treatment risks and how to receive compensation
Family planning has significantly evolved over the last few decades. In the past, couples who could not conceive naturally had few options outside of adoption. Today, however, it’s become increasingly popular for prospective parents to pursue fertility treatments to build the family of their dreams.
According to a research study commissioned by the Pew Research Center in 2018, 33 percent of American adults have either personally used fertility treatments or know of someone who has.
While fertility treatments have made it possible for many more families to bring healthy babies into the world, unfortunately, this is not always the case. Let’s take a look at some common fertility treatments and their potential to cause birth injuries or defects.
What are the most common fertility treatments?
Many different options are available to prospective parents who would like to use fertility treatments to help them conceive a child. Two of the more common choices are:
- In vitro fertilization (IVF). A procedure in which a woman’s egg is fertilized in a laboratory setting and transferred back into the woman to carry to term.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI). A procedure in which sperm is inserted into a woman’s uterus through a catheter in hopes that conception will occur.
There are also fertility drugs that both men and women can take to increase their chances of conceiving. Females often take luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) drugs to increase their egg supply. Men often take estrogen blockers that, if taken orally, can increase LH and FSH levels, which can improve a man’s sperm count and mobility.
Other types of fertility treatments include egg freezing, donor egg use and surrogacy.
Statistics for individuals pursuing fertility treatments
A study by the Pew Research Center found that individuals who sought fertility treatments were:
- 37 percent Caucasian
- 26 percent Hispanic
- 22 percent African-American
Of those, 48 percent had family incomes of $75,000 or more, while 33 percent had incomes between $30,000 and $74,999.
Most individuals who pursued fertility treatments had completed at least some college and often had postgraduate degrees.
Researchers also noted that women between the ages of 35 and 44 who were white, college educated and had a household income of at least $75,000 were the most likely group to undergo fertility treatments.
This statistic seems to align with other data widely available on fertility treatment providers’ websites, suggesting that the upper limit for women to use their own eggs for IVF is between 42 and 45 years old.
Factors that can contribute to fertility issues
Low sperm counts
When we described fertility drugs, you might have noted that we highlighted how the medications prescribed for males are intended to increase sperm count. Men with low sperm counts are at an increased risk of passing on abnormal chromosomes, resulting in birth defects for their babies.
Maternal age is another known factor that can increase the chances of a baby developing a birth defect. The older a woman is when she becomes pregnant, the more likely her baby is to experience birth defects.
An older woman who also uses fertility treatments to conceive is more likely to have a baby with congenital disabilities or other developmental issues, such as Down Syndrome, than a younger woman.
Can fertility treatments cause birth defects or injuries?
Most scientific studies regarding potential birth defects or injuries resulting from the parents’ use of fertility treatments focus on complications associated with IVF procedures.
During traditional IVF procedures, the egg and sperm are placed in a laboratory dish to fertilize on their own. In other cases, however, a single sperm is injected directly into a mature egg in a process called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
According to one study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which looked at data from over 300,000 births over a 16-year period, the risk of birth defects in pregnancies involving assisted conception was 8.3 percent compared to 5.8 percent in pregnancies not involving assisted conception.
The same study also found that combining ICSI with IVF treatment increased the chances of a baby having birth defects by 9.9 percent compared to 7.2 percent with parents who used traditional IVF alone. It also found that using fresh embryos (as opposed to previously frozen embryos) significantly increased the risk of birth defects, with rates being 75 percent higher in babies conceived using fresh embryos.
Researchers also noted that “A history of infertility, either with or without assisted conception, was also significantly associated with birth defects.” This suggests that women with fertility problems are at a higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect even before undergoing fertility treatments.
Although many studies frequently focus on the connection between IVF and birth defects, there are other factors to consider:
Complications associated with multiples
Doctors often transfer more than 1 embryo during an IVF transfer. While sometimes only 1 of those embryos attaches to a mother’s uterus, there are many cases in which multiple embryos attach at the same time, resulting in the conception of multiples.
Data shows that multiples are more likely to develop cerebral palsy than children born via a single birth. Births involving multiples also have an increased chance of birth complications and possible birth injuries.
The fertility drug Clomid and birth defects
One drug commonly used by fertility doctors to increase a woman’s egg count is Clomid. The most significant risk with Clomid occurs when women take the medication at home without a doctor’s supervision because it’s essential for the drug to be out of a woman’s body before she becomes pregnant, making timing crucial.
One study of women who opted to use Clomid on their own without a doctor’s supervision revealed that the chance of having a baby with a birth defect was 300 percent higher in women who used Clomid than in fertile couples who did not use the medication.
Your rights when fertility treatments result in birth defects or injuries
Drug manufacturers are responsible for thoroughly testing their medications to ensure they’re safe before they’re released on the market. They also have an obligation to clearly convey any potential side effects.
Doctors, in turn, are responsible for relaying any important information about the drugs they prescribe or the procedures they recommend to their patients. Potential adverse outcomes, including congenital disabilities or injuries, are details that physicians must convey to their patients as part of the informed consent process.
If your doctor failed to convey potentially life-altering information about the fertility drugs or treatments they recommended to you and your baby was born with a birth defect, you might have a valid reason to file a medical claim against them.
Laura Brown, of Brown Trial Firm, is a Waco and Houston-based attorney that helps families nationwide recover compensation for children who suffer from a birth defect because of someone else’s negligence. Over the course of her career, Laura has obtained many multi-million dollar settlements as a result of birth injury lawsuits and medical malpractice lawsuits. Let her use her experience in birth injury law to investigate your case and devise an individualized plan for you. Contact her today for your free consultation to see how she can assist your family in getting the compensation your child deserves.
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