In 1978, it was big news when Louise Brown was born; she was the first "test tube baby." Today, assisted reproduction is almost old news. You might even know someone who has benefited from it.

The practice has become so common that an international monitoring group says at least 3 million babies conceived by in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproduction methods have been born since the first test tube baby debuted.

The International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART) estimates that every year around the world nearly 200,000 babies are born and 1 million assisted reproduction procedures are performed.

Assisted Reproduction Techniques: A Slide Show

Multiple Births Down

Success over the years has been redefined. ICMART reports the number of multiple births has been declining in recent years because of the "trend away from multiple embryo transfers towards single embryo transfer" during assisted reproduction procedures.

The report says that trend is being driven in some countries by regulation and in others by financial incentive.

IVF Babies as Healthy as Others

Other facts from the report:

--Nearly 13 percent of assisted reproduction procedures occur in women 40 or older.

--Almost 50 percent occur in just four countries: the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K.

--56 percent of all such treatments occur in Europe.

--Denmark has the highest percentage of test tube babies -- 3.9 percent of all births. Latin America has the lowest percentage -- 0.1 percent.

--Availability of assisted reproduction is highest in Israel.

ICMART does not have much data from nearly 1/3 of the world, including Africa, China or Indonesia, where availability is low.

ICMART presented its report at the conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Prague, Czech Republic.

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By Lisa Habib, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCE: International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Prague, Czech Republic, June 21, 2006.