Analysis

Commercial presents IVF as heartwarming, but leaves out troubling details

IVF

A new minute-long commercial for Northwestern Mutual financial services company spotlights one American family’s reason for consulting a financial planner. The female narrator describes having two lifelong desires: to become a teacher and to have a family. The storyline cuts to scenes portraying the devastating experience of infertility, and then goes on to describe how Northwestern Mutual helped the woman and her husband finance in vitro fertilization (IVF). While the commercial ends with a tender moment as the woman holds a darling baby boy with his chubby fist wrapped around the necklace she’s wearing, the commercial unfortunately makes no reference to the significant, troubling aspects of in vitro fertilization.

 

Some of the inherent risks of IVF are due to the way the process works. In vitro fertilization involves retrieving a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm and fertilizing them in a medical laboratory, hence the nickname “test tube baby” (though the babies are technically conceived in a petri dish, not in an actual test tube). One or more of the newly created embryos are then implanted into the woman’s uterus (it’s scientifically inaccurate to say “fertilized egg” because the process of fertilization creates an entirely new entity and is not a later developmental stage of being an egg).

Typically, a larger number of embryos are implanted because many are unlikely to survive. When more embryos survive than are expected, this can lead to the birth of twins, triplets, or more, as experienced by the notorious “Octomom” of California. The birth of multiple babies at one time is associated with numerous risks, including preterm birth, birth defects, miscarriage, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, and amniotic fluid issues. In order to avoid the possibility of multiple births, women who end up with multiple viable preborn babies are often offered “selective reduction,” aka abortion of one or more babies.

Risks for Baby

Live Action News has previously covered the increased risk that children conceived through IVF have of being infertile themselves, and that boys whose fathers smoked and used IVF have of developing certain cancers. Previous research has also correlated higher rates of cognitive deficits in children born through IVF because their fathers were infertile. Live Action News also recently spotlighted a sperm donor who lied about his medical history, leading to IVF-conceived half-siblings around the world with diagnoses including ADHD, dyslexia, epilepsy, and autism.

The Fertility Industry

Live Action News has also covered the “commodification” of children that is inherent to the IVF process, as embryos typically undergo all sorts of screening tests before implantation in a medical form of survival of the fittest. In a widely accepted form of gender discrimination, screening for boys or girls only is just the tip of the iceberg. No longer just protection against multiple inheritable diseases, modern testing tools now screen for height, eye color, and other physical characteristics, leading to the ultimate designer baby. A 2018 Live Action News article described a woman trying to swap her frozen female embryo for another woman’s male embryo in order to give her five-year-old son a brother. An August 2019 article referenced the late financial mogul Jeffrey Epstein’s fascination with transhumanism and eugenics, including a plan to inseminate multiple women in order to pass along his supposedly “superior” genes to as many children as possible. In September 2019, Live Action News also wrote about a 74-year-old Indian woman hospitalized after delivering twins conceived through IVF.

Around one million “leftover” embryos are now on ice in laboratories across the country, some since the 1980s. An estimated five to seven percent of them are considered abandoned, left in perpetual limbo. Divorce settlements over the parents’ “property” now cover frozen embryos.

Live Action News has also previously chronicled “volume discounts, package deals and 100 percent guarantees for baby making,” as described by an October 2017 Washington Post article. No wonder the IVF industry is expected to be valued at $36.2 billion by 2026.

READ: A sperm donor lied about his medical history. IVF companies are still using him.

Risks for Mom

IVF can also involve significant medical risks for the woman, including side effects from hormonal ovulation-inducing drugs ranging from mild bruising and soreness at the injection site to potentially serious issues such as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). The risks of retrieving the woman’s eggs are more significant, and include potential injury to the bowel, bladder, blood vessels, and other organs near the ovaries as well as pelvic infection possibly severe enough to require a hysterectomy. Being pregnant with multiples, which is much more likely in women conceiving through IVF than naturally, predisposes the woman to gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension (high blood pressure), risk for cesarean section (C-section) and postpartum hemorrhage.

Moral Dilemmas

In July of this year, Live Action News covered a couple suing a California fertility clinic for a “mix up” that led to the woman birthing someone else’s babies. In September, Live Action News covered the emerging phenomenon of “three-parent” babies in European countries that involves genetic material from two women and one man and ends up with a new, genetically-manipulated egg that “really belongs to neither woman.”

The Anonymous Us project offers a forum for children conceived through “third party reproduction” including sperm and egg donation and surrogacy to voice their true feelings.

Another Way

Live Action News has previously spotlighted the potential of Natural Procreative Technology (NaPro) to help infertile couples achieve a pregnancy. NaPro starts with a foundational understanding that infertility is not a primary problem, but rather a symptom of an underlying issue.

 

The workup begins with the woman learning to chart her menstrual cycle, and then testing to identify hormonal, genetic, and other abnormalities in her or her partner. Medications, surgeries, and other appropriate means may follow that work to restore the couple’s fertility rather than “override the system” as IVF does. Women who conceived using NaPro report gratitude that they were treated as the primary patients, with an emphasis on restoring their health first and foremost rather than on them as “baby-making machines.”

Women and couples experiencing infertility absolutely deserve our compassion and the very best that modern medicine has to offer them. NaPro offers them a way that does not simultaneously force them to manipulate, commodify, or even destroy human life in the process.

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