Friday, June 16, 2006

IVF babies

It's been 25 years since the first IVF baby was born. Since that time the success rates have improved dramatically and IVF and other ART related procedures such as ICSI have become more accessible. IVF births now comprise around 1% of annual live births in the US and up to 2% of annual live births in Australia. While this is not an overly large number, it does mean that many people now know or know of an IVF baby in their social circle or family.

So who do IVF babies belong to? In recent years the media has played up the stereotype of career driven women who have deliberately put off childbearing until their late 30s because they are obsessed by monetary gain and indulgent lifestyles. These women, who have gone against the "natural" order of starting a family at an early age, find that they cannot conceive naturally and need intervention in the way of fertility treatments. Such coverage may even go so far as to state that these women use IVF as something that they can always count on - a way of escaping the natural consequences of ageing. In countries such as Australia where a large proportion of the cost of IVF is funded by the government through the national health system (Medicare), this stereotype has been used by politicians and social commentators to justify seeking limits on funding individual IVF attempts.

It is important to realise that infertility is a medical condition and not a lifestyle choice. Although fertility decreases with advancing age there are often many other factors that may influence infertility - both known and unexplained. Infertility is not restricted to any age group and many younger couples utilise IVF to achieve a pregnancy.

Looking beyond the media stereotype we can see the diversity of people that pursue IVF such as:

* younger couples
* couples with male factor issues such as low or no sperm count
* couples where the male had a vasectomy is a previous relationship or at an earlier time
* lesbian couples
* couples where one partner has suffered a spinal injury
* single women
* couples with secondary infertility who may have had an existing child either conceived naturally or through IVF
* older couples