Women speaking medical help to get pregnant should beware, cautioned Dr. Patricia Baird at a recent Women’s Health Awareness Breakfast held at Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

As head of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies (RCNRT), she said their extensive research has “overwhelmingly” shown that “reproductive technologies and treatments are becoming disseminated as services, without good evidence as to whether they are effective or ineffective.” After examining 937 studies, the commission found that most treatments for their infertility either “showed promise without conclusion evidence, or did not appear to hold promise.”

In April 1992, Toronto Life reported statements by Margit Eichler who led the lobby to initiate the RCNRT: “The new reproductive technologies have been presented as a solution to infertility, and I think that’s a smoke screen. Something like IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) with a failure rate of 90 per cent would not normally be accepted as a medical treatment. It may incidentally be useful for few infertile couples, but in my view, the main reason IVF is done is to generate ‘surplus’ embryos, which permit genetic research.

Many treatments are potentially dangerous, Dr. Baird warned the audience of over 900 women. More evidence-based research into NRT is urgently needed, she said.

Currently, almost all treatments for infertility, including IVF and associated laboratory procedures, require drugs for which there have been few randomized trials. Thalidomide and DES were drugs prescribed during pregnancy from 1941 to 1971. There were no randomized trials of DES, a synthetic estrogen. Its disastrous results—cancer and reproductive failure in descendants—were not discovered for years.

Early in their reproductive lives women are advised to be responsible, i.e., to contracept. Many women have been conditioned to accept drugs and devices to control their fertility. As a result they relinquish control of their fertility to chemicals and mechanical devices. Later when they want a baby, they cannot conceive, they readily submit their bodies to drug-stimulated procedures of NRT.

In addition to the use of unproved reproductive technologies may result in “enormous waste of financial resources without any benefits,” Dr. Baird claimed.

The final report of RCNRT is to be released this summer.