Having a baby for some people is as easy as riding (or falling) off a bike, but for others, they need a little help to get that bun into the oven. Fertility treatments are pretty common and most everyone is familiar with them, even if they don’t need to use them themselves.
That doesn’t mean that every fertility treatment is seen as run of the mill. In fact, there are a few procedures that are quite questionable in the public eye. Whether it’s for how the treatment is performed or who it is performed on, here are the top most controversial fertility treatments.
There was a belief that some miscarriages were caused by the mother’s body being, in a word, allergic to pregnancy. The theory was that once pregnant, the body’s immune system would kick in to get rid of the fetus. These women would seek IVF in order to get and maintain their pregnancy.
The controversial part of this isn’t the IVF treatment itself, which is fairly standard, it’s what else the doctor may add to help fend off the body’s own immune system. The mother may be given steroids or intralipid infusions to help keep them pregnant. The entire theory has been disproven for the most part, but some people still seek it in hopes it will help.
There’s nothing unusual about Dajinder Kaur’s treatment, only her – very- advanced maternal age. When she gave birth, she was 70 years old which is well past the time many women would consider their “child bearing” years.
The family started their journey in 2013 and finally had their bundle of joy in May of 2016. Many people called into question the ethics of the situation, 70 is really quite old and it means that the child will not have their parents for long not to mention questions regarding how well two aging people would be able to care for a newborn.
Still, her medical reports came back that she was healthy. Despite this, this is still not a treatment many people believe should have been carried out.
This treatment was pioneered to help combat rare mitochondrial DNA diseases, which is a good thing! But that doesn’t mean that everyone sees this unconventional process as entirely kosher. This particular IVF treatment uses genetic material from three people, mom, dad, and a donor egg.
Scientists take out the nucleus of the donor egg and replace it with the nucleus of the mom’s egg so that the good mitochondria is still intact with the birth parent’s genetic material. This leaves the resulting baby with three parents, but without any crippling birth defects. Although this method has good intentions, not everyone is keen on this sort of “Frankenstein-esque” procedure.
Some women can’t have children as early as they like. Maybe it took them a long time to find the right partner, maybe they have had fertility problems for a while, but there’s a chance the problem for them is that their eggs aren’t as “fresh” as they would have been if they were younger. Unlike men who are constantly producing new sperm, women are born with all the eggs they are ever going to have.
So what you do if the ones you’ve got are getting a little up there in age? Just recharge them through a technique called Augment. This practice uses mitochondria in a different way than the three parent system. For this procedure, scientist pull mitochondria from the woman’s undeveloped eggs to boost the eggs that are ready for reproduction. Like putting in new batteries.
In 2009 the answer appeared to be eight, eight babies is too many, especially when you already have 6 at home and are unemployed. That was the lesson of Nadya Suleman who shot into the media spotlight and was quickly renamed “Octomom”. Just as soon as the public took notice, she was quickly vilified for having received IVF treatment to conceive the children despite her less than stable means.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this woman, not the least of which is directed at her medical team for even agreeing to such a procedure. Dr. Michael Kamrava implanted 12 embryos which is way over the normal limit for IVF and is part of the reason why so many children were born. It’s no surprise that he lost his license after this case drew national headlines.
This particular trick is still in an experimental stage, but some scientists have thought to scratch the uterine lining to help implantation. This seems really counterproductive, because wouldn’t damaging the lining DECREASE chances? But as it turns out, that’s not how it works, in theory.
By scratching some lining off, it may make it a bit easier for the IVF embryo to find it’s footing and actually implant. Still, this is just a theory that’s being kicked around and really just shows how new the process of IVF really is.
It’s no secret that women often have to choose between keeping the ball rolling on their careers or having a family. Many companies don’t offer ample leave and flexibility that is needed when you have young children, especially to people just starting their careers. Some companies are paying for their employees to have eggs frozen to make the choice easier.
Big companies, like Facebook, are covering the procedure of freezing eggs for their employees to help them better balance work and life choices. Not everyone is a fan of this solution and instead would rather employers provided more flexibility and options to employees that don’t involve delaying parts of their life plans.
Not every woman is born able to conceive and carry their own child. Some just lack the needed internal equipment for such a feat. Specifically, not having a uterus means that no amount of hormone treatment would help you have the baby you want. A new procedure can actually transplant a womb in another woman so that they can have the child they always wanted.
This is a brand new procedure and is still undergoing clinical trials. The first patients are currently being operated on in the US. However, it has seen some success with live births in Sweden, where the procedure was discovered. The process takes a donor womb and transplants it into a woman that does not have one.
Most people who undergo IVF make sure that all the embryos they are having implanted are genetically in tip top shape, well as much as one can. After all, no one wants to have an unhealthy child. Which is why Mosaic Embryos as a practice seem so strange. They are embryos with a mix of normal and abnormal chromosomes that result in totally normal babies.
These sorts of embryos happen naturally, but the older we get, the more present they become. These embryos are usually not implanted, but in a small trial, these types of eggs were implanted in women who had previously not been able to get pregnant through IVF. Although they did result in some normal pregnancies and healthy children, the medical practice is still seen as something to approach with caution.
With all the testing that goes into making sure your embryos have the best chance of making it when it comes to IVF, it’s no surprise that it has given rise to the idea of designer babies and all the ethical issues that lie therein.
Although a lot of it is merely speculation at this point, as we get more understanding of the building blocks of humanity and the science of helping people reproduce, we may see more issues arising in this arena. After all, it’s one thing to make sure that the baby is going to be healthy, it’s another to go full on Gattaca.
As we mentioned before, science is mostly pretty sure that women are born into the world with all the eggs that they’re going to have. One scientist thought, “That can’t be right,” and went on a crusade to find out where all those back up new eggs were hiding at. Although he didn’t quite figure that out, Jonathan Tilly did discover that you could make new eggs from stem cells.
Stem cells are the magic potion for many issues in the human body and have been known to be helpful in a slew of medical therapies, but have come under massive amounts of fire from pro life groups due to being harvested from fetuses.
Although this is just something that has happened in a lab setting and is many years away from being approved for infertility treatments, one day in the future, women may be able to get fresh grown eggs for their future babies.
Chrissy Teigen and John Legend famously underwent IVF treatment to conceive their daughter and as it turned out, that was when they picked that they were having a daughter. The model came under fire from her critics and it opened up the conversation regarding gender in IVF treatment.
Although there’s nothing really wrong with picking the gender of your child it does open up a lot of doors for how society views males and females and goes into a gray area that many people aren’t really comfortable with.
This is a long since dead practice, but back in the early 1900s, John R. Brinkley conned a number of men into his experimental fertility treatment. When men came to him complaining of, *cough*, problems in the bedroom, he offered to transplant goat glands into them.
This didn’t go very well for his patients (male and female) who underwent the operation. They were known to get infections and even die. He was sued multiple times due to the complications that arose from this procedure. Which goes to show how far reproductive science has really come.
Sometimes the issue isn’t with the treatment, but with the steps leading up to it. One lesbian couple ran afoul of the press when they sued after receiving the wrong vial of sperm for the IVF treatment. They picked a white donor and the sperm they received was obviously from an African American.
The couple sued for wrongful birth and further damages which left a bad taste in the public's mouth as there’s really no good way to say that they have a problem with their child being Black. Their reasoning, however, is sound because that isn’t what they asked for due to their living situation, the cultural differences aren’t what they were prepared for.
The good news is, they love their daughter and are doing everything they can to be good mommies.
That’s the big question facing pro life groups and many divorcing couples. What happens when you freeze your embryos and you’re no longer together? They’re not like children that you can split time with, the ex-husband can’t do anything with them and probably doesn’t want to see his ex-wife having his kids after the fact.
This is a pro life issue because they believe that life begins at conception, so destroying a frozen embryo is destroying a life. There’s no easy answer here, the medical community sees them as waste, but the moral community has a different outlook leading to a load of controversy as to what will happen when a couple who planned ahead, splits up.