Get this. In 1971, the UK Medical Research Council refused on ethical grounds Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe, the first scientists to successfully use IVF, long-term support for their medical and scientific research on “Studies on Human Reproduction”. The Council was concerned with “patient safety and offspring abnormality”. However, the team moved forward with a large amount of private money and made history with the birth of the first “test-tube baby," Louise Brown.
As we all know, that was the beginning of a scientific explosion of reproductive technology. Although, the success rate for IVF has increased over the years and doctors have recognized the need to limit the number of embryos placed in the mother, there seems to be a question not readily asked by patients. Is IVF assisting my fertility or artificially manipulating my fertility?
Countless women have shared their stories with me over the years and I have found one consistent pattern. Doctors recommend in vitro to their patients with very little investigation as to the fundamental cause of infertility. Among a woman’s many gifts is the unique gift to conceive and carry babies. When a woman is diagnosed with infertility, why is IVF the first “technique” offered? I am choosing my words carefully here. IVF is a technique not a treatment. What happened to diagnosis and treatment?
During a flight home a few weeks ago, one of the flight attendants heard that I was an infertility coach. After she delivered my Dixie-size cup drink and one pretzel, she came by to lament. The poor woman spent over $100,000 on unsuccessful IVF procedures and ten painful years trying to conceive a baby. You know the icing on her infertility cake? She now has estrogen-based breast cancer! Hmm… so naturally my next question was, “Do you think IVF caused the cancer?” She was furious. She said from her perspective it absolutely caused her cancer. Apparently her fertility doctors would not admit any fault in her case.
Science is at the longitudinal dawn of discovery for risks related to IVF treatments. Currently, studies on the relationship between fertility treatments and ovarian, uterine, and breast cancers are conflicting (just as the studies on cigarettes and birth control pills), however, the side effects from the fertility drugs are well documented. Regarding IVF babies, there are substantiated studies regarding the short- and long-term risks, which are rarely address in mainstream media. If you were to have a baby from IVF, here is a limited list of possible effects:
- She has triple the chance of having cerebral palsy
- He is 7 times more likely to have eye cancer
- She has an increased risk of rare “imprinting disorders” which are inherent disorders caused by changes in the genetic activity
- She is more likely to be born with a genetic disorder called Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome (birth defects and childhood cancer)
- He is twice as likely to need neurological therapy
- Her risk of developmental delays is the second most common problem in children born after IVF
- She will have an increased risk of cleft palate and heart value defects
What do you think?
Melissa L. Foley is a nationally-recognized Christian Infertility Coach, FertilityCare Practitioner Intern and motivational speaker with a passion to serve Christian couples on their infertility journey.