As a follow-up to my earlier piece on IVF, and the need for provincial governments in Canada to fund it for humanistic and financial reasons, I wanted to address some of the comments I received via email. I found it odd that no one had posted comments on my blog, but when I logged into my email, I saw that people felt more comfortable emailing me from a fake email address and under the name “anonymous”.
The tone of the emails centred around a belief – by many – that the reasons for infertility and the recent focus around IVF treatment – and request to have taxpayers fund it, comes from a belief infertility issues are created by woman who are choosingtheir careers over their responsibility to bear children. This waiting is causing less fertile eggs and hence problems conceiving and thus, it has been pointed out to me, the obvious solution is to not play G-d, but for woman to start having babies earlier in life. Problem solved.
So to be clear and to address that belief, I scoured the Internet for hours, days, weeks and months in order to find some supporting data on which to make this assertion.
First off, this is not just a “Western” issue with woman wanting careers first, then babies, and when they cannot conceive they know they have this expensive not-guaranteed treatment in their back pocket. In fact, the rate of infertile couples is on the rise both in developed and developing countries. Infertility is a cause of great suffering for those involved and their legitimate desire to have a child / children, requires the attention of society. With that, it must be stated that modern lifestyle patterns do play an important role in the problem of infertility.
I think those people who sent me the anonymous messages are familiar with the work of a scholar named Hans Rudolf Tinneberg, who teaches at the Justus-Liebig University in Germany because he feels that “the true challenge is that of changing the mental attitude of people so that they procreate when it is biologically the optimal age to do that, between 21 and 23 years old”.
This changes everything, right? To suggest that woman place procreation at the top of their list at such a young age, when they are still in University / College, just getting started in the work force and find their way would appear to be a backward statement on a forward thinking society. Yes, it makes sense to bring attention to being healthy from that age forward, but to do anything else would be met with great resistance and so it should.
This is, after all an “expert” speaking from a scientific perspective on what the most effective solution to infertility would be! Surely, this statement should not be taken completely out of context, right? When referring to lifestyle playing an important part in infertility, it’s not just couples waiting to have children, but also it depends on social and economic structures that lead people to marry and decide to have children at an older age. Not everyone wants to wait until they are in their late 30’s to have children and not every family can afford to have children in their early 20’s.
So now we find that there is a role which must be filled by government in order to combat infertility and that is through education. Eating disorders like anorexia, obesity, excessive body exercise and stress, need to be mentioned at an early age and the acknowledgement that there is a negative impact of environmental pollution on fertility and the harmful consequences of active and passive smoking to female and male infertility. Not that a 15-year-old is going to understand that when trying to fit into a size zero prom dress like her friends can and like they do on TV.
There also needs to be some discussion around infertility beyond just the science of it, to include spirituality, psychology and environmental impacts because the problem of infertility is not just a medical issue.
Until the government comes up with a plan to combat rising infertility for all people, then it should provide assistance for those wanting to have children by funding IVF. The savings on the healthcare system have already been clearly documented – the aftercare for multiple births is very expensive and paid for by taxpayers and multiple births are caused by the fact that IVF is expensive and couples (and doctors) are attempting to fertilize multiple eggs at once hoping one birth will stick. This process is clearly broken.
What we can find comfort in, is that all experts concurred on the fact that IVF is not the only solution to infertility and should not be presented as such when infertile couples call upon family doctors, gynaecologists and fertility specialists for help. Moreover, it is evident from empirical research that IVF does not address the causes of infertility and it is statistically proven that, since its outcome, it didn’t solve the problem of infertility. The problem is still there.
I could not find Canadian-specific numbers but studies conducted in the US, showed that 99.5% of couple with infertility issues were not able to conceive through IVF, in the US, and in addition often IVF is presented as the sole solution. Without diagnostic investigation patients are left unaware about the true cause of their infertility and with a lot less money as a result of the cost of this procedure. I’m not even sure the year from which this data came, but you get the point. This process is broken and available to those who have money or who wish to risk everything for the chance to bear their own children.
Everyone who emailed me agrees that it would be questionable to fully fund IVF without spending the time and money to research the problems of infertility and make progress to tackle its roots at the same time. This would also be a perfect time to study whether infertile couples were being correctly diagnosed, keeping in mind the multi factors of infertility, and eventually have access, if it is the case, to easier and cheaper treatments other than IVF, but this is still very much down the road.
Until provincial governments like Ontario and Alberta are able to address infertility growth, then they should do the right things and help these families, help all families, get equal access to IVF treatment, save taxpayers dollars, then research infertility on a bigger scale and let’s get this broken process fixed.
Infertility is a serious problem and needs to be tackled accordingly. NOW.
UK’s IVF funding effort ‘feeble’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Schools failing to teach pupils about infertility (guardian.co.uk)