IVF – nature vs. science – what is the right answer?

We had a story in the newspaper today about IVF cycles and how our local hospital is cutting back on the number of cycles available to local couples from the suggested three to just two because of costs, but that women between 40 and 42 will also be given a try. The meeting reported on revealed that by reducing the number of cycles allowed generally, it will give the older women the opportunity to try for a baby. Alongside this story, we also had another about a woman who has been refused fertility treatment because her new husband already has two children from a previous marriage. As a result, she has become depressed, been forced to quit her job and feels the refusal has taken over her life. She believes the hospital doctors are “playing god with her life”.

An interesting topic and one that certainly got the other reporters talking, interestingly from very different perspectives. One of the team, who is not in relationship and doesn’t have children of her own, was very cynical towards the woman’s story and felt that she was being rather over dramatic about the situation, that she was letting her situation get out of control and was letting it take over her life. She felt that the woman should have accepted the situation and been content with her husband’s children that she was lucky enough to have, and instead should focus on the good things in her life such as her health and finding a career. Another member of the team, a mother and step-mother, felt that actually, as she had experienced for a short time before becoming pregnant, the feeling that you might be unable to have a child could be heartbreaking and could cause a woman to fall apart. She said, from her own recollections, that the possibility that she might not be able to have a child became all she could think about in those few months and that it had begun to send her emotions through the roof. Luckily, she was able to have a child, but she understands that if this weren’t the case that she would not be content with sharing her husband’s children and that this would not fulfil her own physical and biological need for a child.

All this discussion left my head spinning because, like many, such a huge issue left me feeling too uneducated, inexperienced and perhaps even immature to form an opinion. To be honest, years ago, after studying the issue as a concept to be dealt with by ethicists, I actually ended up feeling that IVF treatment is wrong and that we shouldn’t be messing around with nature. Essentially, I still do believe that if you are physically unable to have a child that there is a reason for this and that we should not try to change this – more to adapt around it through adopting, surrogacy or other means. However, I totally understand that if I were in the same situation that I would feel completely different. I think it is difficult to form an opinion when I know no-one who has been through IVF and I haven’t experienced it myself. But, I do feel that it must be devastating for a woman to find out she cannot have a child, particularly when we women are still raised in a society that enforces the patriarchal ideas of woman existing to run the home and look after the family. No matter how much we think we have evolved past this basic need, maternal instinct says volumes and if a woman has decided she wants a baby, it is something that must happen. If it fails to, for any reason, it can be devastating to people’s lives, can end relationships and bring on depression.

The problem is, where does the treatment stop? These women could demand endless cycles in their quest for a child, which places heavy costs on the NHS and may not even have great results overall. It sounds heartless, but I think I am still slightly more against IVF than I am for it – however, I am sure that when it works it does create huge happiness for the couple.

Such a difficult issue – what do you think? Is IVF right or wrong and why?


6 responses to “IVF – nature vs. science – what is the right answer?

  1. As a mother of three (naturally conceived). I can’t imagine not being able to do so. Facing the finality of infertility, with no more options, is a huge loss to cope with. As for the argument that conceiving — the beginning of life — should only take a natural course, we play God with end of our lives every day — in operating rooms, cancer treatment centers, even vaccines. No easy answers. Thought provoking post!

  2. This is a good post. And difficult to answer honestly as I know people who have had IVF and it changed their lives for the better. However I do feel that access to IVF is something that should be restricted because from a resources point of view. Not taken away as an option completely. But there are many people suffering with the existing lives that they have and I think priority should be given to ease existing suffering over bringing new people into the world.

    I guess it is easy for me to say this though as I had kids young and love having a family and I’ve never suffered from that uncertainty and the heartache of repeated trying.

    • Thank you, and great comment – I think you summarised what I was trying to say – I agree that it should be restricted in terms of the number of tries because apparently it is less likely to work the more tries there are.. But so hard to discuss without having an experience of it.. Thank you for your comments

      • I know – I’ve been trying to be more open in my interactions with people recently but this is a great unsaid opinion in my mind. Difficult one.

      • Thank you, I’m glad I managed to express what I was thinking – I always tend to argue each side of the argument and find it difficult to pick a side, this issue is just one huge grey area in my opinion

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