Tuesday, 31 May 2016

IVF and a new world order.


Some of you will have watched 4 Corners on Aunty last night. It was an "expose" on the "IVF industry".

Something that was of interest to me.

I am nearly a year down the track from my Miscarriage. My assumption was that, given that I got pregnant quickly and without trying too hard, I would get pregnant quickly without trying too hard again.

Unfortunately this was not to be, and I am heading to the doctor tomorrow to follow through on the conception plan b. It's with a bit of a tail between my legs. I feel a bit like I have failed. I had put quite a lot of stock on getting pregnant the old fashioned way. IVF scares me and it has taken some time to get my head around it - the being pumped full of hormones, the ovaries swelling, the freezing of embryos. A potential for long-term effects to myself and my offspring.

I don't like the idea, really. I want a baby but I am scared of having IVF. I am growing a pair and getting thee to a doc, and I will see what they say, and what happens. I am trying, despite my fears, to keep an open mind and my eyes on the positives.

Back to the program. It was one-sided, and focussed on the negatives associated with IVF. It bought in experts who were instrumental in the development of IVF, who now disassociate themselves from current IVF practices, which they feel are corporatised and focussed on profit rather than using the technology in a prudent manner. They featured a head of an IVF company, who was bumbling. The program suggested that IVF practices were predatory towards vulnerable women, continuing with IVF cycles when the chances of success were infinitesimally small.

It featured Gab Kovacs, who is a prominent IVF doctor. He has been on record previously saying that women need to just settle down, not be so picky, and get pregnant earlier. On the program, he said that "embryos are like mud, you throw enough of them and one will stick". He also said that he could not refuse a woman IVF if she wanted it.

Putting the doctor hat on, I object to that analogy of mud being flung at the wall - it's not nearly as simple as that. IVF is medical treatment, and the law states that people cannot demand medical treatment that is futile or unduly burdensome.

Melinda Tankard Reist was also on, and though I don't like the woman, I agreed with some of the points she made.

There are plenty of very desperate women and couples out there - some of this desperation is being taken advantage of.

The only thing that the program will change for me is that I will go in and ask for an honest appraisal of what my chances are, and how they might dwindle with increasing numbers of  cycles. I would also prefer to see a female IVF specialist. Just because. I have had a good chat with my fella about the issues the show raised.

The program gave me some more general pause for thought. It occurred to me that I could have stayed in my previous marriage, and my chances of having a baby would have been much higher. I don't regret leaving, not for one second. I am happy, in retrospect, to have worn that risk.

There is a lot of pressure on women to "settle", with the "tick tock". Yet, for a professional woman, having a baby is done at a financial cost, mainly to the woman, in terms of career and superannuation. Many women are happy to make that compromise, yet increasing numbers are not. They do not necessarily stay in relationships to have babies, just like me.

These women are demonised as being selfish, and are warned about having sad, lonely, unfulfilling lives, but the research states quite the opposite. The real consequence is to society - birth rates are going down. It will lead to demographic consequences, with fewer future taxpayers being born.

Hence, for all Tony Abbott's gaffes, his one about helping women of calibre have babies has some merit. Unless women are encouraged to have children at a time when it is safest for them and baby (ie under 35) without their finances or career being compromised, birth rates will not increase. In this way, we as women have the power.

I want a baby, I really do. So does my partner. It is, by all accounts, a beautiful experience, perhaps made even more beautiful when your eyes are wide open, and the changes are accepted in advance.

It's also freeing that, if it all proves too hard, and it is not to be, I, and we, will be ok.


  1. I don't know what to say Cilla except I hope you get what you want. I really do. I don't know enough about IVF although I know of 3 people who did it successfully and all I know is that funny enough they were beyond caring about anything other than having a baby and were also past 35. You are a doctor and have plenty of people you can chat with and be able to consider your options so you are lucky. I hope it goes well for you. x

  2. Yeah, settling and not being picky and having kids young has worked out so well for women historically. Damn middle class men telling women what to do with their bodies.

  3. Please forgive me for a first time comment on something so personal. But, here goes: I felt the same way as you about the IVF route v naturally, but you know what, after all else had failed, it worked. And, for us, that was all that mattered in the end. The Very Best of Luck to you both.

  4. We have our daughter becuase of IVF. It utterly sucked and I won't say 'it was worth it', but I love her and I love being a family so maybe it was.

  5. Sending all the good luck vibes your way :) xx

  6. Great post. You've raised issues that really resonate with me.

    Profit driven medicine always has its pitfalls. You know interventions and investigations that would never be considered in public, are performed without too much fuss in private. The strong financial incentive to pursue bill-able items can't help but distort practices. But as an informed 'consumer', you're probably better positioned to navigate the bullshit. You can exercise caution. You can interrogate the evidence.

    It's unfortunate that Four Corners used IVF as the example, but informed consent and questionable EBM practice were my main concerns arising from that program. I wish the Four Corners program did more to highlight the systemic issues of private medicine in Australia - rather than focus on this very emotive field that inevitably throws judgement at women who participate in it.

    We discussed the program at work, and comments such as 'why would any woman be so stupid' stung. The same questions aren't asked of why Mr X underwent an angiogram for questionable indications - and suffered complications. No one is asking why was Mr X "so stupid" to undergo a procedure he perhaps didn't need, yet women are cast as hysterical in their desire to pursue IVF with the hope of pregnancy.

    To imagine women's fertility choices occur in a vacuum does us such a great disservice. Gab Kovacs also described his area of specialisation as 'lifestlyle' medicine (or some such term), inferring that it is a field that has only arisen because women have chosen lifestyle over family.

    Like you, I am second time married, and feel only relief that I never had children the first time round. A child would have been born into a most unhealthy and volatile environment, and my opportunities to leave - and build a life thereafter would have been greatly curtailed.

    My decision or desire to have children now and not a decade ago do of course have something to do with lifestyle. I now enjoy a healthy, stable relationship with a man who also wants children and the resources to enable this. This is the 'lifestyle' I've chosen.

    Sorry, I'm getting ranty. I just get frustrated with the unfair judgements thrown at women my age. It's no small undertaking to pursue IVF and I wish you courage and quick success. Good luck.

    1. Bloody awesome comment. I could imagine we would have a very lively conversation about this IRL, after some vino.