Woman says IVF is a ‘cash cow’ that pro-lifers shouldn’t defend

In an article for The Federalist, Catie VanDamme writes that after seeking the advice of doctors regarding her own “reproductive health,” she was “thrown onto a fertility conveyor belt” headed straight toward in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Calling IVF the “cash cow” of the fertility industry and saying it does not truly protect women or their babies, VanDamme suggests that pro-lifers should stop defending the practice.

VanDamme’s story

VanDamme had been diagnosed in her 20s with endometriosis and knew there was a chance she would not be able to get pregnant, but she was never told it would be impossible. After getting married, she proactively sought medical advice on becoming pregnant, though she and her husband hadn’t yet tried to conceive. Within minutes of her arrival at the office of a fertility specialist in Dallas, the doctor was giving her information about IVF.

“He mumbled something about my AMH levels (hormone levels that assess ovarian reserve count) being ‘somewhat low for my age,’ and this was why he suggested such drastic measures. I was only 29. My husband and I hadn’t even tried to conceive naturally yet,” she wrote. Yet, the doctor told her that her ovaries would need to be stimulated to make more eggs, and that she may want to consider embryo adoption or surrogacy.

VanDamme and her husband sought the opinions of two other fertility doctors, but she says they were worse than the first. One told her they could try conceiving on their own but not to wait too long because “IVF was standard.” The other spoke negatively of IVF and children in general, and he advised that VanDamme skip having children altogether and instead spend her time traveling.

“These doctors rushed through my questions. I wanted to know if there were other things I could do before IVF,” she wrote. “Could we figure out why my hormone levels were low and treat that instead? If I had a low egg count, why did they want to pump me full of synthetic hormones to get my body to mass-produce eggs if I was already producing them on some level? Don’t you only need one egg to get pregnant?”

Professor Robert Winston, a British infertility expert, explained that IVF is not a “treatment” for infertility, because it does not address the underlying causes. It is instead used as a “blanket treatment” for infertility, forgoing attempts to learn why a couple is struggling to become pregnant. He said that “more than half of the women referred to IVF clinics would be better served by alternatives.”

Professor Adam Balen, former Chair of the British Fertility Society, agrees with Winston. He said, “IVF is sometimes embarked upon before all other treatment modalities have been exhausted…” He called the idea that IVF is the answer to every case of infertility “erroneous.”

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Another woman, Moya (a pseudonym), took part in a doctoral study by Leonora Butau, PhD, and reported that fertility doctors had told her that she had “unexplained infertility.” She feels she was referred to IVF too quickly without any comprehensive investigation into why she was not conceiving. She told Natural Womanhood:

If I had known what was wrong and that there was an issue, and known that they were treating it, then I would have been happy to know that something was being done. But, every time I went [to the clinic] they would say, ‘We can’t see a reason why shouldn’t be [getting] pregnant’… If they would have said to me, ‘We found that there is a problem and you can’t have children,’ well, I would have learnt to deal with that and would have accepted that. But the fact that they weren’t coming up with anything made it so much worse for me.

Leah was also offered IVF for “unexplained infertility.”

“There is no illness called ‘infertility,’” she said. “[I thought] there must be something behind [it] and they aren’t able to tell me what it is.” It was only later, after seeking ‘alternative’ treatment, that Leah discovered she had celiac disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Vitamin D deficiency, and potential endometriosis.

Butau explained that while interviewing women and couples for her study, she saw a recurring theme of frustration and disappointment in the fertility industry and a lack of awareness of the alternatives.

Restorative Reproductive Medicine

VanDamme, unable to pay the $40,000 that IVF was going to cost her, says she lost all respect for the fertility industry and gave up. Months later, scrolling through Instagram, she stumbled upon an account that spoke about Restorative Reproductive Medicine (RRM). She found a local doctor who practiced this type of treatment and he ran follicle scans on her, discovering a hormone imbalance that was having a negative effect on VanDamme’s ovulation. He told her to begin an anti-inflammatory diet and prescribed progesterone, which cost just $4 and was covered by insurance. She also began tracking her cycles. Two months later, she was pregnant.

When she told her new doctor about how other doctors had tried to push her into IVF, he said that restorative reproduction treatments aren’t flashy and don’t make a lot of money for fertility specialists. Essentially, once the fertility issues are solved, women don’t need the fertility specialist anymore.

“I was stunned,” she wrote. “He told me how unethical it would have been to start me on IVF without managing my endometriosis surgically — placing me at greater risk of miscarrying, or ectopic pregnancies. The three previous doctors made no mention of that.”

RRM encompasses different methods of treatment including NaProTechnology, a health science that monitors and maintains a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health and offers medical and surgical treatments to cooperate with a woman’s reproductive system. Using biomarkers to monitor a woman’s reproductive health, doctors identify any problems to help understand the reasons behind infertility, so that they can hopefully be addressed and pregnancy can happen naturally.

IVF in the headlines

Since the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that stated frozen embryos can be considered children under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, IVF has been in the headlines, with politicians moving to ‘protect’ it. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who is pro-life, signed into law a bill meant to protect IVF. She said, “Alabama works to foster a culture of life, and that certainly includes IVF.”

However, IVF destroys human embryos at a higher rate than abortion. In the IVF process, embryos — human beings — are graded and labeled. Some are immediately destroyed for not meeting certain predetermined standards created by the fertility industry. Others do not survive defrosting attempts, and still others don’t survive the transfer to the uterus. Meanwhile, women and couples are spending a small fortune on repeated IVF attempts, desperate to get pregnant and perhaps wrongly believing IVF to be their only option. IVF also carries increased risks to the health of the mother and the health of any children who survive to be born.

In addition, studies show that couples who face infertility and use NaProTechnology experience more than double the live birth rate of couples who use IVF.

As pro-lifers rush to defend IVF as pro-life, they must be aware of all of the negatives that surround the fertility industry, including the massive death toll IVF has caused, and should educate themselves on alternatives like NaProTechnology.

VanDamme asks valid questions: “I can’t imagine how many women a year go into those clinics desperate for a child, blindly trusting these doctors and unaware of any restorative approaches to treating their reproductive systems. How many women wind up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars putting their bodies through so much pain? How many human embryos are created and frozen because the doctor was lazy — or greedy? How many doctors know the actual outcomes of IVF but aren’t upfront about the heartache and risks?”

She argues that pro-life states like Alabama must rethink their pro-life efforts and stop considering IVF to be pro-life. She also wants women facing infertility to educate themselves on the “safer, more affordable, and more effective options” available to them through RRM.

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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