A valid alternative: Understanding in vitro fertilization

The ability to bear offspring is often called the miracle of life. Given how natural conception is often considered the standard, it can be taken for granted just how many factors have to line up in order for this to occur successfully. The World Health Organization reported in 2010 that 15 percent of reproductive-aged couples—those who are between 15 to 49 years of age—are afflicted with infertility worldwide. 

But there are alternatives that allow these couples to bear children in spite of fertility issues that they may have. One of these is in vitro fertilization (IVF), a series of procedures which involves the fertilization of reproductive cells outside the human body. Mature eggs are collected from the female ovary and are fertilized by sperm cells in a laboratory. The fertilized egg is then transferred back into the female body and embedded in the uterus. 

Faith in modern medicine 

The moment a couple decides to have a child may prove to be daunting and entail apprehension mixed with excitement. In those instances when a decision has been made, they may be driven to do whatever it takes to see their dreams become a reality, no matter the obstacles. 

Such was the case for Anson Uy, who decided with his wife, Aubrey, to have children in 2009. Upon finding complications in conceiving a child, the couple decided to seek alternatives. 

After consulting with fertility doctors, it was decided early on that IVF would be one of their last resorts in attempting to have a child should natural and medicine-assisted approaches fail to work. Other alternatives, such as adoption, were considered as well, but Anson says that they considered this as their next option should their attempts with IVF fail. Four years later, the couple made their first attempt using IVF to have children. “The reason why we did that was because we’re no longer getting young,” Anson explains. “I think my wife [at] that time was about to turn 34, and I think [the age of] 35 was the year where fertility rates drop.” 

Having gone through the process, Anson imparts that at times, the emotional burden demanded by the procedure far exceeds the physical one. He likens the potential of failing IVF to a miscarriage, as in both cases, the woman has to carry the child in their womb for nine months—giving them the same distress, anticipation, and hope that most mothers go through. 

Anson and Aubrey went through immense emotional trials in their journey to having children, succeeding only on their third try. Thus, he suggests that if a couple considers settling on IVF, preparing for it psychologically and emotionally is a necessity since, as Anson explains, “It’s a traumatic experience.” 

Apart from being an emotional burden, IVF is also a financial one. This was especially true when couple made the decision to go through it, when there were only a small number of infertility specialist in the country.  

“If we total everything, including the failed procedures, the [estimated cost for IVF] was right about P2-billion,” Anson discloses. However, given that there are hundreds of infertility doctors across the country today, he surmises that the costs for the procedure may have already gone down significantly. 

Going against nature? 

In July 2018, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) found that more than 8 million babies have been born globally through IVF. Though the numbers have increased exponentially with each passing year according to ESHRE, many are still opposed to using IVF as a fertility procedure, believing that it is one of society’s taboo topics. 

The unfavorable outlooks on IVF mostly stem from an aversion to the approach taken by it. The Vatican, for example, has issued disapproving declarations on the subject before. The Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation described IVF as “usurping the place of God.” Another ethical concern that the Vatican discusses is how only viable embryos are implanted into the womb; other embryos are thrown away or used in experiments, which the Church takes as an offense to human life.  

Tashi Fookson-Lee, a mother of twins born through IVF, says she is not personally affected by the negative connotations, which she attributes to her being in the medical field as an anesthesiologist. Despite the aforementioned arguments against IVF, she says, “Our IVF journey was, more than anything, a spiritual walk for me. Everyone involved in our IVF journey was led by God.” 

She goes on to say that she feels no different from mothers who have conceived naturally and adds that she does feel an unspeakable bond toward mothers who have undergone IVF. “There is a different kind of fear and courage, weakness and strength, pain and love they have experienced that resonate in me,” she conveys.  

Going through the procedure had meant developing a thorough understanding of one’s own ethical and spiritual beliefs, Anson conveys. Seeing that IVF is a relatively unconventional procedure, they also had to attune their beliefs with their decision to opt for IVF. But he recognizes that the case might not be the same for other couples. 

Coming times 

The experiences of IVF parents are ones that many may not get to go through. Yet whether or not they conceive their children through natural conception or through assisted reproductive technology, most aspiring parents work toward the same goal: to have a child they can raise with love and affection. 

Medical advancements such as IVF are seemingly indispensable in a progressive and fast-paced generation. “We’re going to see a lot of this in the future,” Anson says, believing that the technology will continue to advance with the goal of aiding society in future endeavors. 

Bit by bit, people will hopefully welcome and recognize these uncustomary options as signs of development in society rather than trivialized decisions. After all, these advancements are being made for the betterment of human conditions—in this case, enabling a couple’s wish to be fulfilled and human life to be born, in a manner just as valid and endearing as other means. 

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms. 

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