In my many years of practice and experience as a Consultant Gynecologist, with specialty in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), I have had to answer a lot of questions from couples who come to my office on a daily basis. One of the questions often asked after consultation and suggestion of the IVF procedure as a means to conception is: Are the IVF babies, normal babies?

Normally I try to maintain my calm, smile broadly, observe the environment, look at the couple and ask them: Where are we getting the eggs and sperms to be used for the procedure? I get the obvious answer of “from us”. I then proceed to ask: In whose womb will the embryos be implanted? I still let them supply the answer themselves. After that, I throw back the earlier question they asked to them: What then is abnormal about the babies that will be born?

From 1978 when the first recorded case of successful IVF was done till this point, over 10 million children globally have been born through the IVF process and they are doing just fine – as fine and healthy as the children conceived spontaneously (through the normal cycle). It should therefore be settled in your mind that there is nothing artificial about the process or babies born through IVF. The only difference is that here, for some reasons, fertilization was aided and done externally. Even in the case of a donor sperm or eggs, and even using a surrogate as the case may be, the gametes used are not manufactured in the lab.

After fertilization is achieved, the embryos are transferred to the uterus of the woman where implantation and eventual pregnancy occurs. The fate of the pregnancy is the same as that of a child conceived spontaneously. The woman is eventually delivered of a baby. You feel the baby, handle the baby, breastfeed the baby, watch the baby grow like any other normal child, he or she attends a conventional school and does everything normally. There is absolutely nothing abnormal about the baby.

In fact, if I am to take it to the extreme, I could say that IVF babies have the tendency of even being more normal than children conceived spontaneously. This is because in the spontaneous conception, there is usually no control over anything as everything happens randomly. The woman ovulated a certain kind of egg, and the man releases millions of sperms during intercourse, all of which race towards the egg. One randomly gets to the egg before the others and breaks the shell, fertilizing the egg. The others then die off. The zygote which eventually becomes the baby inherits the code of its building component. There is absolutely no control over the process as selection is purely random.

In the case of conception through IVF however, a lot could be observed and avoided through the advanced approach of Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) where the embryos can be screened for possible genetic defects before they arre transferred to the uterus. Thereis also the possibilityfor sexselection here which is not possible in the spontaneous cycle.

The future of gene editing we have looked forward to, is becoming a present day reality using the CRISPR technology, all agreeing with the fact that the IVF process as a form of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), is here to change the reproduction narrative for good.

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