IVF Pays Off…For Whom?

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on January 6, 2016

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A new study published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association at the end of 2015 suggested that “nearly two-thirds of women undergoing I.V.F. will have a child by the sixth attempt.” The headline in the New York Times declared “With In Vitro Fertilization, Persistence Pays Off.” But as Pamela Tsigdinos suggests, the payoff is only for the fertility clinics and the pharmaceutical reps promoting IVF—not the women and couples involved.

Tsigdinos goes on to observe that the hard costs of following through with such recommendations are somewhere in the $90,000-$150,000 range—a sum that most ordinary couples can’t conceive of paying, all for a gamble. And let’s not forget that IVF has a global failure rate of almost 80 percent and an almost 70 percent failure rate here in the United States.

But there’s more than just money involved—there are emotional and health risks to consider, too. Women undergoing IVF are expected to pump their bodies with hormones for months at a time where the long-term risks are entirely unknown. Moreover, the emotional distress of endless cycles of trying and failing, trying and failing leave many women—and their partners—with years of emotional duress to work through, even if they eventually do have a successful pregnancy.

As a result, Tsigdinos proposes a 2016 list of “Do No Harm Resolutions” for IVF practitioners:

  • I won’t put financial motivations and ‘upselling’ of another IVF cycle ahead of a patient’s overall well-being, and I will apply safe, medically indicated protocols.
  • I will prioritize my patient’s emotional health
  • I will fund and/or participate in longitudinal health studies for all involved in assisted reproductive technologies (ART)

These solutions would go a long way in putting patients first, rather than wealth that stands to go into the pockets of fertility industry professionals. But given that much of this industry has cropped up in pursuit of profit, I’m skeptical that we’ll see any change in this new year—or the ones to come.

Image by sol_invcitus via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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