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possibility of birth defects but has no genetic history of these types of problems? Surgery can correct some causes of infertility; for others, hormone-based drugs may be effective. Of the 2 million U.S. couples who seek help for infertility every year, about 40,000 try assisted reproduction technologies. In vitro fertilization (IVF), the technique that produced the world’s first “test tube baby” in 1978, involves eggs and sperm being combined in a laboratory dish. If any eggs are successfully fertilized, one or more of the resulting fertilized eggs is transferred into the woman’s uterus. The creation of families by means of assisted reproduction techniques raises important questions about the physical and psychological consequences for children (March of Dimes, 2016). For example, one result of fertility treatments is an increase in multiple births (De Neubourg & others, 2016). Twenty-five to 30 percent of pregnancies achieved by fertility treatments—including in vitro fertilization—result in multiple births. Fertility drugs are more likely to produce multiple births than in vitro fertilization (March
of Dimes, 2016). Any multiple birth increases the likelihood that the babies will have life-threatening and costly problems, such as extremely low birth weight (March of Dimes, 2016).
Hazards to Prenatal Development For most babies, the course of prenatal development goes smoothly. Their mother’s womb protects them as they develop. Despite this protection, however, the environment can affect the embryo or fetus in many well-documented ways.