Another Reason To Doubt Infant Mortality Data
Prematurity is now the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, in part due to the “epidemic” of multiple births to IVF patients. Multiples are twenty times more likely to die in the first month of their lives than singletons; those multiples that survive are more likely to have respiratory difficulties, learning disabilities, and other problems. Cerebral palsy, for instance, has become more common in the United States, even as its major cause, jaundice, has been all but eliminated. And even IVF singletons are less healthy than non-IVF children: they tend to be smaller and are more likely to be born with birth defects, including bowel and genital deformations and eye cancer.
(emphasis added). As you can tell, the article takes a dim view of in vitro fertilization. But I’m not jumping on that bandwagon.
What struck me was the potential for IVF to affect our infant mortality numbers. I believe that something like 1 percent of births in the U.S. these days are IVF. Suppose that for natural pregnancies, the infant mortality rate is 0.5 percent, but the IVF infant mortality rate is twenty times that, or 10 percent. Then our 1 percent IVF rate would add 0.1 percentage points to our infant mortality rate. In the game of international infant mortality comparisons, that would be a huge handicap.
The bottom line is that if you are trying to have good health care statistics in the sense of low infant mortality and low cost, you want to do less IVF. But that is not necessarily a more humane or better health system.