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I was asked by a reader to comment on the fertility treatment of Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Sen. John Edwards. Mrs. Edwards, at age 48, decided to have two more children, Emma Claire, now 6, and Jack, now 4. The question is “How does anyone at 48 begin having children again?” The easy answer is assisted reproduction and fertility treatments. But it’s the hard truth that lies behind these procedures that needs to be exposed. Quite simply, there are horrible dangers and devastating effects for both women and children from fertility treatments.
Admittedly, there have been a number of conflicting reports over the last five years regarding the increased risk of IVF babies to various defects and cancers. But most notably, a Dutch study found a link between retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer of the retina, and IVF. These results came one week after a British study reported IVF children were at five times the risk of a rare genetic disorder, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, characterized by large-body size and tumors.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported that infants conceived by IVF procedures have twice as high a risk of major birth defects as naturally conceived infants. And just last month, two doctors from Cornell University confirmed the increased risk of IVF babies to Beckwith-Wiedmann syndrome as well as Angelman’s syndrome, which is associated with mental retardation and a near-total lack of speech.
One possible cause for the increased risk of IVF babies is that they may have been born from co-culture with animal cells or sera. This occurs after the eggs and sperm are combined in the laboratory to create several embryos. They are grown in a petri dish with nutrients and other cells intended to stimulate development before transfer into the womb. The sera and “other” cells are sometimes taken from animals.
As a result, the embryos could be infected by animal viruses and/or unknown agents. The FDA and U.S. Public Health Service actually recommend doctors “follow [IVF babies] for their lifetime and counsel them to be alert to unusual symptoms… [and] they and their intimate contacts should defer from donation of blood and other tissues.”
Another possible cause for the increased risks of IVF babies is the ovulation-inducing drugs given to women undergoing treatment for infertility. Lupron, for example, is a drug approved by the FDA as treatment for
advanced prostate cancer and endometriosis. Yet for some 15 years, Lupron has been the most commonly prescribed drug for use in fertility treatments to maximize the number of eggs produced by women.
Women taking Lupron for endometriosis reportedly suffer severe side effects including joint pain, numbness, memory loss, irregular heartbeat, suicidal depression, whole-body swelling, grand-mal seizures, hot flashes and headaches.
Women given Lupron in fertility treatments for IVF reportedly suffer more extreme side effects due to higher doses and longer regimens. These effects include neurological symptoms such as migraines, numbness, tingling, weakness and memory loss. They also include bone loss, ovarian enlargement, ovarian cysts, lupus, dizziness, gastric pain, joint and bone pain, baldness, stroke, coma and brain damage.
According to one source, “Liz Tiberias, author of ‘No Time to Die’ believes her ovarian cancer was the result of nine attempts at IVF.” She is not alone. Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer. The same source says that “In her book ‘It’s Always Something,’ Gilda questioned red meat and hair dyes among potential causes – but never questioned her use of fertility drugs.” To date, IVF deaths are known to occur from hyperstimulation of the ovaries, anesthesia, infection, bleeding and ectopic pregnancy. The exact numbers are not known.
Consider the testimony of just one of many women who received Lupron as a fertility treatment when she was a healthy 25-year-old. Since receiving Lupron, she has suffered with multiple unexplained illnesses requiring hospitalization. She often has extensive and extreme hives inside her mouth and throat, which become so sore she cannot eat or drink. She has bleeding despite having a total hysterectomy, and although her prolactin levels are normal she lactates daily. Even her toenails and fingernails are coming off. Her husband says, “I think I am watching my wife die in front of my eyes and no one wants to do a thing about it.”
In addition to the ill effects on women, there are reports of Lupron effects on IVF babies. Lupron-exposed babies have been born with heart defects, anatomic anomalies developmental delays, seizures and ADD. There is also the report of death.
Ironically, physicians and the PR firms hired by the IVF industry give women the impression that IVF is a low-risk procedure. Why?
In the 27 years since the first baby was born using IVF, fertility drugs and treatments have become a multi-billion dollar industry. To date, around 1 million children have been born to women using these procedures. But multiplied millions have been treated unsuccessfully.
As for Elizabeth Edwards at age 48, she probably required an egg donor. That means someone else underwent the fertility treatments and its risks on her behalf. If sufficiently informed, she might nonetheless be compelled to use her new-found public platform to expose the dangers for both women and children in IVF procedures.
To report suspected adverse side effects from a drug or medical device, call the FDA at 1- 800-FDA-1088.