Tuesday, March 16, 2010

ivf - day 64 - ethics

The title says IVF day 64, and technically it is, but it's also "pregnancy day 32." I'm a little over 4 weeks with a due date of November 19 and so happy to be saying that. So, in discussing the ethics behind IVF, I must admit I'm biased. Without IVF, my chances of becoming pregnant are slim to none.

But, I don't think I'm different than any other woman. No matter how well your career is going, how much your social life is booming, it's in a woman's nature to have the desire get pregnant and have a child.

My basic premise is this: if it's "natural" to want to have children why is it unnatural to seek treatment to do so?

By definition:
Natural: existing in or formed by nature

It's interesting to me that critics of IVF lean on the argument that it's "unnatural." Sure, at first glance, it's odd to give daily shots, have almost-daily ultrasounds and bloodwork, and fertilize eggs in a petri dish. But, the entire process of IVF mimics the way the body should work. Hormones have to be at certain levels to produce mature eggs. The uterine lining has to be at a certain thickness and quality to support growth of an embryo. Fertilization still occurs. IVF ensures the body does what it should do in the "natural" way.

IVF doesn't change the way babies are made. All one has to do to see this is watch an IVF pregnancy and you'll see it progresses the same as a non-IVF pregnancy. The success/failure of pregnancy is almost identical. And, the difference in the statistics could be attributed to the fact that many women undergo miscarriages and never knew they were pregnant under normal conditions. They might just assume their period is a little late. This is unlikely in the case of the IVF patient since they're so closely monitored in the early stages.

Even the fertilization process of IVF mimics the body's selection process. The strongest, best sperm make it the long pathway to the egg and are able to break through the outer barrier for fertilization to occur. In the lab, similar techniques are used. Sperm are examined for quality and motility and the best are used for fertilization purposes. Still, there is nothing artificial in this process. Even in the lab, one sperm and one egg are needed to create one embryo. Same as in the human body.

After the sperm and egg come together, fertilization isn't a sure thing. If it does happen, it's up to that embryo to properly divide. Many stop growing as they should. There are many chromosome issues that just cause the embryo to arrest. But, there are a few that survive, that hatch and implant in the uterine wall, which is when pregnancy occurs.

What many people don't realize is that your body makes decisions every month during a cycle. It makes the decision which egg is the frontrunner, which will ovulate. Once sperm enters the picture, and fertilization occurs, the embryo has to divide at the proper rate or it will miss the opportunity to implant, because it needs perfect uterine conditions to do so. Many times an embryo is formed and passed and a pregnancy never occurs, whether a chromosome issue is to blame or the uterine conditions aren't conducive. Most of the time, a woman never knows this decision making process is occurring in her body month after month. We go on blissfully unaware because it's not us making the decision, it's our bodies. We don't feel guilty if a pregnancy doesn't occur, because we don't know why the pregnancy didn't occur. We don't know if an embryo was formed or not.

Just because the IVF patient and doctors are making decisions throughout the process doesn't necessarily infer they are "playing God." God set in order the natural process of how a baby is formed. One sperm and one egg are needed, fertilization must occur, the chromosomes have to be just right, the uterus has to be ready, and the hormones have to sustain the pregnancy. Researchers have worked to understand God's process in order to give a couple the chance of becoming a parent. It's a chance, that's all it is. The researchers can't create an egg or a sperm. They can't wave a wand and form an embryo. They work within God's parameters and laws of nature to treat a condition.

When a researcher studies anything they look at the normal process and how it *should* be. Think about a cancer researcher. They look at normal cellular processes and try to understand what goes wrong in a cancer patient. They treat the medical problem, but they don't work miracles. They work with the natural processes of the body, administer drugs to regulate the body, and even do surgery to remove the problem.

An infertile couple is no different. They are infertile for a medical reason. They seek medical treatment for their condition.

What many outsiders fail to realize is that infertile couples seeking treatment aren't looking for a blond-haired-blue-eyed baby. They are looking for the opportunity to become parents. Me, on the other hand...I put in my request for a baby that doesn't spit up and a teenager that doesn't talk back. What's wrong with that? I'm practical.


Of course, there are lots more issues related to IVF I could discuss (ie. PGD, when an embryo has rights, stem cell research), but frankly I don't feel adept to do so. If you're struggling with these issues, I highly recommend A Case For Life by Bo Kirkwood. The cover isn't the prettiest, but it's a quick-read, and makes complicated material simple for us non-scientists, all while keeping a God-centered view. One aspect of this book that I found particularly interesting was the discussion of "conception", which is a non-scientific term and difficult to pinpoint. Something I had never thought of before, but am now keenly aware.

As an update, my bloodwork is doing well. I go back tomorrow for my final beta and will report here when I get my test results. Still on those progesterone shots, too :)


Stephanie said...

This is a great post...I've often thought of how I feel with IVF vs ethics, but I really do see it as a treatment for a condition. I'm rooting for you!

MandeeM said...

April, I think you are amazing. My heart goes out to you and I wish you and Greg a wonderfully long and enjoyable pregnancy. I am so glad that medical treatment is available. I really understand that part. Congratulations!

Wendy said...

Congratulations April,
I think your news is absolutely wonderful. I wish you a trouble free pregnancy and I'm sure you are already positively glowing.
As far as the pros and cons for IVF goes who cares???!!!! If it makes just one persons dreams come true then it has been worth it. Happiness radiates outwards, your pregnancy has made a lot of people smile already, me being one of them. You have already made a lot of people smile and feel happy. Keep radiating April. XOXO imagining

justem said...

So did you watch the Nat Geo Sperm special??? SOOO interesting.

I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts. I think it is people like OctoMom who have made IVF so controversial for the general public. You and Greg on the other hand...totally awesome, deserving, wonderful future parents. No controversy in my mind.

*reyanna* said...

This post was so fascinating! Thank you!

My grandparents (on my dad's side) have issues with IVF and surrogacy. Or at least they did while Shaina (my sister) was trying to become a surrogate. She was unsuccessful twice, but she still would really like to try for us... if we're unable to conceive on our own (I may not be able to carry even if I get pregnant...). I do hope (if that's the case) that my grandparents will be okay with *that.*

And thank you for mentioning that it's an answer to a medical problem. I've never looked at it like that. People go to the doctor for cancer and chemical imbalances, so why not this? I think I'll keep that in the back of my head if I ever have to defend myself. I hope I don't. I hope you don't either!

I know you and Greg will make wonderful parents! I'm so excited for you guys, and I'm praying so hard that your beta tests turn out with great news. :-)

Thank you again! :-D

ArlaMo said...

Beautiful post, April. I absolutely appreciate your perspective on this.

Hoping and praying for a wonderful, healthy, happy pregnancy!!

lindsay k./aggiebonfire00 said...

God created amazing men and women who could help people like you and greg experience this amazing gift. regardless of how you got pregnant, i'm just so over the moon excited that you are!

meagan said...

I could say a lot of things but I will keep it simple. Several of the people I know who are in total disagreement with the IVF are people who are into absolutely "natural" everything and have not had any problems getting pregnant, carrying and delivering healthy babies. They are also the ones who condemn women for using epidurals/meds during labor although when they go have other surgery or dental work they have pain meds. I personally see no difference and don't know how they think one is ok and one isn't. No-it's not the way you planned on trying to start a family but it is what it is and unless there is something I am missing in the Bible it's your personal decision that you have to live with (and I'm not saying I disagree with IVF just stating facts). If some don't feel they could do it with a clean conscience, then fine don't do it but don't condemn those who are doing it. Thanks for all the information. It's been so interesting. Love ya.

Gene Skirt Divas said...

Hi April,
It amazes me (but not really) that there are people out there critizing IVF. I am one of the lucky ones that do not need IVF but I understand how important it is for others. There are many things or practices out there that are not "natural". My husband is a Jr. High teacher and he is faced with unplanned teenage pregnancies this year with two of his students. To me "babies" having babies are not "natrual". Sorry to rant, but I just feel that you and Greg have already been through a lot and people should keep their opinions to themselves. You and Greg and others who are going through similar experiences deserve to be happy!
Congratulations again on your new adventure. Thank you for always sharing your thoughts on your wonderful blog:)
Have a great weekend.

Amy said...

April I can't tell you enough how happy I am for you and Greg! I am so excited for you both on this journey! And I think of you everyday, sending good thoughts that the pregnancy goes well! :D

This whole journey that you have shared with us all has been extremely interesting to read! And I thank you for sharing it! I truly didn't know much about IVF until you started this. I had no idea it was so complicated and had so much involved in it.

And I have to say, if the baby comes on the due date projected: it will be born on my birthday!!! LOL!! It is a great day to be born! :P

Angela W said...

Fantastic news! I think it is great that there are the treatments out there to help couples. I understand your wanting to be a mom and think it's awesome!

Sasha said...

So beautifully said April.

Change the way you hang your memories. said...

THANK YOU so much for educating people about how scientific, and how completely miraculous a pregnancy is. I think generally, people believe that you just decide 'hey I want to get pregnant now' and then you suddenly are, and that if it isn't that easy for you then well, there must be something wrong with you. To see it broken down into such DETAIL as you have done, is hopefully showing others just how much needs to come together so incredibly perfectly for a pregnancy to even occur.

Kristen said...

well said! congratulations on your pregnancy...prayers and positive thoughts for a healthy nine months and beyond!

One Daddy + One Mommy + Big Brother + Baby #2 on the Way! said...


Christa said...

Well said April. We have dear friends who have kids only because of IVF and they are the best parents in the world. I would hate for some lucky children to miss out on that!

Ally said...

I think regardless what I believe, what matters is what YOU and G believe. You've clearly thought about this in many ways. You must simply follow your hearts. I know that I could never have gone through what you have done so far, I would never have had the commitment. I applaud you.

Mary Jo said...

Reading your blog has been very eye-opening for me in regards to IVF. My sister-in-law and her husband gave birth to twins several years back with the help of IVF. And I knew about some of the process, but never really "got" it. I knew she was getting daily shots, but never realized what that truly meant.

I have a new found respect for her and all that she went through for her boys. I cannot see how anyone can see those children as "unnatural". They are so beautiful and amazing. And will never know what their momma went through for them. But that's ok because it was completely worth it!

Steph said...

I have heard so many people make comments about IVF and other infertility treatments and it drives me crazy. My personal favorite is, "Maybe this is God's way of telling you not to have kids." Yeah, right. People shouldn't talk about things they don't know about. And unless you've fought like hell to make the dream of motherhood come true, you have no idea what the decision is like. Hugs to you!

michele said...

unfortunately, those who judge are usually those who have never walked in those shoes. i think this was beautifully written and well thought out. i came up against the same judgmental looks when i choose to formula-feed both my kids. it was for valid reasons, not the least of which was the health of my kids. but people didn't get that; they just condemned me for not "trying hard enough." compassion is lacking in our world.

i hope you and greg are in for eight months of sheer happiness and health and blessings, followed by scores of years of happiness and health and blessings as a family of more than two. you deserve the title of "mom" and "dad," however it comes about.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, happy, healthy, loving families come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and origins. People who have issues with alternative methods of growing families have been blessed to have never experienced what it's like to have that life withheld from them through infertility. It is sad that these negative people can be so loud, but at the same time I'd never wish intimate knowledge of that pain on anyone, so I give them a pass with the hope that some day their negativity and ignorance fades and that their next generation isn't so blind. You are growing a beautiful healthy family right now. It's no ones business but yours and your child's as to how that family began.

Mandie said...

april, i missed this news! congrats to you guys!

Lou Spiden said...

I say "go for it!". I dont think it matters on "how", I think it matters on "love" so whichever way it comes about - congratulations :)