Wednesday, July 25, 2018

IVF turns 40

40 years ago today, the first IVF baby was born. This seemingly simple event marked the beginning of an industry, providing a medical means for couples would were struggling to expand their families. To date, more people than ever are using IVF to resolve infertility and the technology resulted in Robert Edwards winning the Nobel Prize.

Yet 40 years later, the truths about IVF are only starting to come to light. In the United States, IVF is still generally not covered by insurance, leaving most pursing this route to drain financial savings (if they have any) or take on massive amounts of debt in the hopes of becoming pregnant. Adding to this is the fact that IVF success rates are actually pretty low, with a recommendation of multiple rounds in order to optimize a positive outcome. Then there's the simple fact that IVF is being used as a fix-all to treat anyone with a diagnosis of infertility, even though the procedure was developed specifically for those with getting sperm to connect with egg. It's the equivalent of telling someone with heart failure and another person with kidney failure that they need to undergo the exact same operation and assuming the same outcome.

Fertility treatments are a mixed bag. For those undergoing them, there's a gratefulness that exists to even be given a shot at parenting. Speaking from experience, when those around me were clueless how to offer support and often fell back on platitudes, the REs were the ones I felt were actively working with me to resolve. To date, I have no regrets about the decisions we made, though I also am very aware that both Grey and I were armed with a lot more scientific knowledge than most people will ever have.

Despite the good, there was a lot of bad that happened. The utter lack of emotional support by the clinicians, a general offering of "bad luck" for explanations of why I was miscarrying or IVF rounds were failing and a price-tag that left us in crippling debt all left me not only with a severe case of PTSD, but also a realization that this largely unregulated industry was focused more on profits than on patient well-being. And that we have a long journey ahead of us to rectify that.

Recently a group of amazing bloggers and advocates took to social media to bring these truths to light. They've each talked candidly about their experiences and how they've been impacted by the myth that IVF is the cure for infertility. Just as the dark-side of CRISPR has hit the news media, so too does a similar spotlight need to focused on IVF. And the conversation needs to be brought to the forefront, making the general public aware that treatment is far from a guarantee and is one that is often trauma inducing.

Happy birthday Louise Brown. Your birth has changed the world. May it now mark this anniversary by ushering in much needed change again.

3 comments:

  1. Technological advances are so double-edged. It brings change fast and not-so-fast. This movement is bringing important facets of the IVF revolution to light.

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  2. Wow, 40 years. I don’t know what to think of IVF personally as it didn’t work for us. We were led to believe that we could only have children with donor egg IVF. Obviously that’s not true. From my perspective I agree, IVF should not be presented as the only option. I would be interested in research into environmental factors that affect fertility.

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  3. Thanks for sharing Pamela's post & our video, Cristy! :) IVF has been a blessing for many families over the past 40 years -- but the lucky ones who take home healthy babies are still far from the majority. There is still so much we don't know about the procedure and how it affects both mothers & babies, and there is still so much room for improvement.

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