10 Things You Really Need to Know About IVF Before Using It

Stefan Pasch

It’s good and normal to desire children – but at any cost?

simply being a girl).  In PGD, one or more cells is removed from the developing embryo and evaluated for the “undesirable” trait.  Only the “healthy” embryos are then used for transfer into the woman.  This might be appealing if you are desperately trying to conceive and want to optimize your chances for a healthy baby.  But recognize that in doing so, you are weeding out “unwanted” babies in the quest for the “perfect” one.  We have names for that when it happens among grown-ups – whether based on disability, gender, or race.

3. We don’t know the long-term effects of IVF on children’s health.  Although IVF has been used since 1978 and over 5 million children have been born through IVF, we don’t know fully the long-term effects of IVF or its screening procedures on the health of children.  One study presented to the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests there is an increased risk of birth defects for children born through IVF.  Other more established risks associated with IVF include higher rates of prematurity and low birth weight, especially because of the increased likelihood of multiples.

4. The odds are against you. Despite the promise it holds out, IVF is not that successful. In 2012, according to statistics published by the Society for Assisted Reproduction, only 35.9% of IVF cycles (involving the transfer of one or more fresh, non-donor embryos into a woman) resulted in pregnancy and only 29.4% of cycles resulted in a live birth. The success rate differs based on woman’s age (the comparable numbers for women over 42 are 8.6% and 3.9%) and whether the embryos used are thawed or fresh.

5. Over a half million embryos are in frozen storage because of IVF.  To increase the chance of success, multiple embryos (as many as a dozen) are created in each IVF cycle, but it is not safe or effective to transfer them all at once into the woman.  The result is that hundreds of thousands of “unused” embryos are left over.  Couples struggle with what to do with their extra embryos and, in the Unit
ed States alone, there are an estimated 500,000 embryos in cryopreservation awaiting final disposition.  This might include future transfer (either to the mother or to another person seeking pregnancy through “embryo adoption”), scientific research, or destruction.

6. IVF involves a reckless disregard for human life. The number of embryos that do not survive the screening or implantation processes and the dilemma of surplus frozen embryos clearly establish that IVF involves a lot of embryonic “waste.”  Given the rate of loss of life – whether you label it “embryonic” or anything else – inherent in IVF, we should pause and reflect as to whether we should knowingly destroy so many lives in order to create life.

7. IVF sometimes involves abortion.  IVF involves the intentional destruction of human life. Sometimes, when multiple embryos are created and transferred into the woman, more of them successfully implant than is safe or desired. “Selective reduction” is the technique used to reduce the problems associated with multiples. That’s right – that euphemism means your doctor selects one or more healthy developing fetuses for destruction, leaving the remaining fetuses to develop (hopefully) to full term.  

8. IVF is risky for the mother.  The IVF process requires the mother (or the woman donating the eggs) to undergo a process of hormonal stimulation to produce multiple eggs for fertilization. There are associated risks such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and complications from the egg retrieval procedure.  Also, because of the higher likelihood of multiple births, using IVF means higher rates of pregnancy complications too.

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