Published: 25th July 2018
Clinicians who fail to bust IVF myths are contributing to the heartbreak and misery of thousand of infertile mums, warns Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF).
Writing on 40th birthday of Louise Brown, the world's first IVF baby, Philippa Taylor, Head of Public Policy at CMF, warns that the growth of IVF treatment has not solved the "heartbreak of infertility".
"40 years after her birth it is estimated that more than seven million babies have been born as a result of IVF and other assisted reproduction treatments. Around 2.4 million assisted reproductive technologies (ART) cycles are estimated to take place each year world-wide, with about 500,000 babies born as a result. If rates stay at current levels, then an estimated 157 million people alive at the end of the century will owe their lives to assisted reproductive technologies (1.4 per cent of the global population)."
"…While the IVF industry and media focus on and market the success stories, the average delivery rate from ART treatments are around just 19 per cent per cycle - a global IVF cycle failure rate of aro19 per cent per cycleund 80%. In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority reports a 'success' rate of 26.5% . This 'success' rate actually means that 73.5 % of cycles do not lead to a birth", she writes.
"Yet with one in six couples experiencing problems conceiving, the fertility industry is thriving. It is estimated to be worth over £600 million in the UK alone, with one cycle of IVF costing up to £5,000 or more."
The intervention by the doctors group comes as global fertility rates continue to decline, with the World Bank finding they have halved since 1960.
At the same time according to the ONS a growing number of women are putting off childbirth until their mid-30s or beyond. Indeed in 2016, the number of older women (over 40) having babies overtook the number of younger women (20 and under) for the first time in 70 years, a trend that is being repeated across Europe.
Mrs Taylor warns, that too many women are being duped by stories of celebrities in their 50s who with the help of IVF find it relatively quick and easy to conceive.
"Success rates for IVF diminish rapidly after 35 years of age for women, largely because of loss of ovarian follicle reserve and oocyte quality with age. Even a woman under 35 years has less than a one in three chance of having a baby per embryo transferred, using her own eggs and partner's sperm. A woman in her early 40s only has about a one in ten chance of having a baby per embryo transferred. And the success rate drops to a mere two per cent for women over 44.
This is highly relevant in a time when more and more women are delaying childbirth to concentrate on jobs and careers. When celebrities in their 50s become pregnant, what the media do not tell you is that it is almost always with a donor egg (indeed, 59% of women over 44 years used donor eggs in their treatment)."
Mrs Taylor continues, "IVF heartbreak is real. IVF is no guarantee of success, despite all too often being touted as such. Added to this is the significant financial, emotional and physical toll that IVF can have on women."
Mrs Taylor, who is a leading bioethicist also warns that policy makers have failed to keep pace with the Pandora 's box of genetic engineering, cloning, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (screening out of embryos), embryonic stem cell harvesting, research on three parent babies and animal-human hybrids.
"Many IVF programmes involve the production of spare embryos, which are then used for research, disposed of, or frozen for future use. Between 1990 and 2013 over two million were allowed to perish, according to a Parliamentary answer. Now, over 170,000 IVF embryos perish every year. Embryos are experimented on, donated to other couples, frozen indefinitely … or even turned into jewellery.
She concludes by saying: "There are some very troubling aspects of the fertility industry. For instance, the number of babies born with health challenges, the use of medically unproven techniques and 'add-ons', poor regulation, the shocking commercialisation and exploitation of women's wombs and eggs and the change to 'traditional' notions of family structure and biological parenthood, through gamete donation (which can bring much heartache to the offspring) and surrogacy. A dead or dying person can have their reproductive tissue removed to enable someone else to have a child - even a grandmother.
"IVF can provide couples with a child they desperately want. And it has brought many precious new lives into being, and real happiness to millions of parents. But too many now think it is the answer to infertility. But it is not."
For media inquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07970 162225.
Notes to editors
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 4,500 British doctor members in all branches of medicine. A registered charity, it is linked to about 60 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
The CMF exists to unite Christian doctors to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.
Dr Peter Saunders (CMF Chief Executive) 020 7234 9660
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668
Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 4,000 British doctor members in all branches of medicine. A registered charity, it is linked to about 65 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian doctors to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.