The Baby Business – My Thoughts

You may have watched or heard about ABC’s Four Corner’s program last week – The Baby Business. It was an entire 45 min dedicated to ‘blowing the lid’ on IVF, it’s processes, it’s side effects, the long term emotional and physical repercussions, the success rates and the fertility specialist’s role in looking after your best interests…and not those of the companies’ share holders.  I have just watched it. So many points of discussion. Here is the link to the show if you’re interested to watch it. I have summarised some thoughts and provided some suggestions below…

The concerns with IVF presented on the show:

  • Australia is generous with its medicare rebate to access IVF (in comparison to other countries)
  • There is no limit on cycles that are rebated my medicare
  • There is no age limit on cycles that are rebated on medicare
  • Women older than 40 who are accessing IVF has tripled in the last 10 years
  • Success rates for women older than 40 are potentially not being discussed openly and is much lower than we thought
  • There is a lack of transparency and information given for women or couples to make informed choices
  • Counseling is not offered during a cycle – only for assessment to access IVF
  • IVF companies are making incredible profits and have to work in the best interest of their share holders, not patients
  • Many patients are feeling like they are being sold false hope
  • There is fear around asking doctors the tough questions
  • Long term health implications of going through IVF

My comments in response to these concerns:

  • The show was really unbalanced in its view of IVF, although did point out some of the harsh truths that you may not have been told
  • One of the ladies interviewed has just published a book about her poor experience with IVF and I’m sure the program boosted sales
  • Keep in mind the doctors don’t own the IVF clinics – this wasn’t explained
  • Putting a more human spin on IVF, there may be many doctors and specialists out there to make a profit, but I have met many of the specialists on the Gold Coast and have heard so many warming stories of individual experiences of support and genuine concern that I definitely don’t think the show represented the majority of fertility specialists
  • The doctors are put in really difficult positions on many occasions – they see your hope, your desire, your life long dream of wanting children and they have all this medical information and equipment that could help you with that, why would they not try all they can within the boundaries of their medical knowledge?
  • We need to stop blaming clinics and doctors and start taking more responsibility – asking more questions, seeking help external to the clinic, seeking support

Suggestions for you:

  • Get informed, whether that be through the clinic or otherwise until you are happy with the amount of information you have to make an informed choice
  • Ask your doctor as many questions as possible – ask the hard questions like “what is the success rate of a live birth for someone of my age and health?” or “what is my risk of ovarian cancer”?
  • Listen to the answers – when living in hope, we often only hear what we want to hear
  • Do some research on the medication, the protocol, the side effects and if you have questions, ask them next appointment
  • If you don’t like the first fertility specialist you see, find another one, there are many to choose from
  • Take someone who is not as emotional invested as you to your specialist appointment – they can often give you a more balanced view of the appointment
  • Have a limit on your number of cycles – whether it be financial or number of cycles
  • Stop once you reach that limit – the further past your resources you go, the harder it is to stop because you have already invested so much. You need to be able to get off the ‘IVF Treadmill’ before you become so exhausted that you cannot continue
  • Plan a life without children – I know this sounds harsh. However, after years of focusing on IVF you may not notice the friends you’ve lost, the dreams relating to career, travel and sheer enjoyment you’ve lost, keep some of these things in focus will help keep your head space a little more grounded
  • Seek professional help. If your IVF clinic doesn’t offer a counselor or psychologist and you think you need one…make an appointment, don’t wait to blame the clinic for not organising it for you
  • But also, single stories are important…yours in particular. Try not to compare your stories to others
  • And remember, you are always doing the best you can with what you have available

One specialist on the show I found really interesting was a Professor who helped pioneer the technology for freezing eggs and embryos, Professor Rob Norman. He estimates that 40-50% of women going through IVF would fall pregnant naturally if they began to understand their fertility window (72% of women don’t know when they ovulate), tracked their cycle properly, lost weight and participated in an exercise regime or looked at ovulation induction before IVF. That’s a pretty big statement and confronting if true.

I would love to know your thoughts if you watched the show and if the program changed your direction about IVF. Send me an email at info@thepointofwellbeing.com.au.

Four corners