Doctors are beginning to fear that assisted conception techniques such as IVF (in-vitro fertilization) could be causing cancers, especially ovarian cancer, in women treated.
A study of IVF clinics in Australia also discovered that the technique can lead to serious complications, and even death. Two women died because of a failure to deliver oxygen during general anesthetic. Other problems included visceral injuries during egg retrievals, pelvic abscesses, serious infections, five serious heart complications and cancers discovered during or after treatment.
The long-term effects of the treatment are not known, simply because nobody has bothered to research them. Incomplete studies have pointed to a rise in endometrial cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer, but the findings are not conclusive.
When the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council looked for reactions to the drugs used in the procedure, they found just 37 reports filed with the authorities since 1971, which demonstrated the bias from voluntary drug surveillance programmes, they concluded.
The Council is calling for monthly reports on adverse reactions from clinics, and for long-term studies to be started.
A 40-year-old woman has died from a stroke after being given IVF treatment, an Auckland, New Zealand coroner has concluded. She was given human menopausal gonadotropin, a drug used worldwide in IVF clinics. It was suggested in the court that the victim's history of migraines may have been a contributory factor.