In vitro fertilisation can seem like a miracle to the thousands and thousands of people who have successfully attempted the process. To those otherwise without hope of a biological child, the idea of getting pregnant via a relatively simple process is a highly appealing one.
Like any medical procedure, in vitro fertilisation has a number of pros and cons which should be considered carefully before proceeding. In vitro fertilisation is not something for everyone, and indeed is not guaranteed to work for everyone.
To begin with, it’s important to have an understanding of how the procedure works. In vitro is an invasive medical procedure, although only in the later stages. The process, at its most basic, is to take sperm and eggs from the participants, create a fertilised egg, and then implant that egg into the womb. The difficult aspect of the process is in harvesting healthy eggs from the female body, and to improve the chances of a couple, the female partner must take drugs which stimulate the production of eggs. The eggs are harvested from the ovary using an ultrasound-guided needle which pierces the vaginal wall to get to the ovaries. The eggs are then prepared and introduced to the sperm, usually in a fluid medium but sometimes with the sperm injected into the egg. Three to five days later, the resulting embryos are inserted into the womb via the vagina.
In vitro fertilisation has a high multiple birth rate. This is because several fertile eggs are planted at once in the hope that at least one of them will take. While this does result in an ‘instant family’, not all parents will necessarily be prepared for the care of two or more infants at once. In Australia and New Zealand, a maximum of two embryos may be inserted. In the UK, three is the maximum. In the US, there is no maximum and the number of embryos inserted will depend on the individual case.
The success of the procedure will depend on the age and physical condition of the potential mother. Canada in 2006 reported a 35% pregnancy rate for in vitro and a 27% live birth rate. US clinics reported an average 35% live birth rate for the same year.
The two cons most commonly spoken of in relation to in vitro fertilisation are multiple births and depression. In-vitro is definitely not a certain method of achieving a healthy pregnancy, and many people require a number of attempts before they succeed. The ups and downs of going through the in vitro fertilisation process can take an enormous emotional toll on all parties involved, particularly if they experience failures.
Another con is the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. This syndrome has symptoms that range from mild to serious, including nausea, bloating, dehydration and in severe cases ovarian rupture. Though it can be a serious condition, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is not life-threatening.
While there are a number of cons, the pros for in vitro fertilisation are obvious, and can quite simply be summed up in one word: babies. For people desperate to have a child, the difficulties of the process are nothing in comparison to holding a newborn in their arms. The decision to undergo in vitro fertilisation is a highly individual one, and should be undergone only once potential parents are certain it’s right for them.