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Is IVF destructive?

The decision to attempt IVF is not an easy one to make. For most it is a financial gamble on a dream that will take years to recover from. But this is nothing compared to emotional struggle a couple will face when IVF is their last option for a biological child.  Moral, ethical and religious questions weigh heavily on the minds of any couple facing IVF.

There is a disturbing need by some to connect embryonic losses during IVF with the concept of destroying a life through an abortion. Regardless of your view on abortion, not all losses during the IVF process are cases of destroying life.

Even more insulting is the assumption couples attempting IVF are blasé about these losses; we only care about the take home baby. Nothing could be further from the truth. When my Wife and I heard 9 mature eggs were harvested, realistically I thought 5 would grow after being fertilized. Reading the statistics from other IVF couples, I knew 5 was a reasonable number, even if still optimistic. The fact is our Reproductive Endocrinologist, the Embryologist, the nurses, techs, my Wife and I were all HOPING every one of the 9 eggs fertilized would result in a viable embryo.

If a farmer plants 15 corn seeds, and only 6 grow into stalks of corn, we don’t say the farmer “destroyed” 9 plants do we? Why do some feel the need to label these losses as destroying or killing innocent life when everyone involved was doing everything they could avoid it? Clinics don’t transfer multiple embryos hoping all but one survives, it’s simply the odds the doctor’s are dealing with. Most clinics are responsible about the number of embryos transferred into the womb, a few aren’t. We can’t let the case of Octomom tarnish and warp how IVF is viewed to those not dealing with infertility.

To be honest, my biggest fear during the IVF process wasn’t ending up empty handed. My biggest fear was facing the need for selective reduction.  A situation our clinic tries very hard to avoid. Holding clinics responsible for relying too often on selective reduction is certainly a cause I could get behind. However, transferring two embryos into a womb that both split isn’t a situation any doctor could have predicted. Selective reduction would be needed for the life of the mother and to avoid risking the lives of all the children.

There is one aspect to IVF that is sadly destructive. The discarding of frozen embryos.  Our clinic provided us with the option of what to do with our remaining frozen embryos should we decide to stop having children. To discard or donate for embryonic adoption? There should be more literature provided discussing the benefits of choosing donation to help other infertile couples. An option all clinics should provide to their patients.

I’m not defending the IVF process against all the ethical questions against it. It disturbs me to think how this process could be abused to select designer babies with the right eye and hair color. Or when I hear about it being used for gender selection.

The limited destructive aspect of the IVF process can be reduced through education and holding clinics responsible to keep the number of selective reductions needed as low as possible. But we must fight against the idea that all embryonic losses are destroying life. The majority of losses are because they didn’t survive when everyone involved were hoping they would.

IVF is overcoming an obstacle preventing a couple from conceiving. That’s all. We don’t withhold glasses from those with poor eyesight because they see the way God intended. Nor do we condemn those with a genetic disorders and prevent them from treatments. We treat children suffering leukemia, cyanotic heart defects causing “Blue Babies”, those with cleft pallets, all natural conditions we have overcome using science.

Unlike embryonic stem cell research, none of the embryos created during the IVF process were done so with the intent of being destroyed. The IVF process is about creating life.

With only about a 20% success rate for a couple trying naturally to conceive, the success rate of IVF is much higher. But we have statistics we can point to regarding the losses during IVF. We just don’t know why a fertile couple only has a 20% chance of getting pregnant. While a large number of them are cases of the egg not actually fertilizing…we just don’t know how many did fertilize and didn’t implant like we do with IVF.

I understand the choice of attempting IVF is a difficult one. But don’t let anyone tell you it is against God’s will. If God were that against IVF, wouldn’t its success rate be zero?

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