(LifeSiteNews) — In November, I wrote a column in this space on the sad story of Jennifer Aniston’s use of IVF (in vitro fertilization) to have children later in life, and her comment to the press that she desperately wishes someone had told her to “freeze her eggs.”
The result of those efforts is that she remains childless – but the failure of IVF means that children were created and died before being born (perhaps before implantation). And as Dr. Max Pemberton, a British medical doctor, journalist, and author who works full-time as a psychiatrist in the National Health Service, noted in his Daily Mail column this week, women are being lied to by the “fertility industry.”
“The birth of a baby is a miracle,” Pemberton writes. “But for those who have left motherhood later, it is more of a miracle than we would sometimes like to acknowledge. For women juggling the demands of a career with the desire to become a parent, egg freezing – with the idea of leaving IVF until things are more settled, when life seems more stable – can seem like the perfect answer. But this makes women vulnerable to exploitation.”
In fact, Pemberton points to Oxford University fertility expert Professor Imogen Goold, who recently noted at a conference that clinics that specialize in freezing eggs “are selling anxious women a false dream” and “preying on women” by selling them something “that may be unlikely to work, especially if they have already reached their late-30s.” Women (and men) are told that they can have it all – and that they can simply subvert nature by taking advantage of new technologies. The truth? It almost never works.
“Unfortunately, the world of IVF is the Wild West of medicine; there is no independent body overseeing it,” Pemberton writes. “Britain now has one of the highest rates of women giving birth over 40 across Europe, with the number of births in this age bracket trebling over the past 20 years. Yet among women aged 42 to 43, just 3 per cent will end up with a baby. For those over 44 the success rate is just 1 percent – so a failure rate of 99 percent. The message from these statistics should be that IVF rarely works and, therefore, women shouldn’t bank on it being able to help them.”
But that is not what women are being told. “If you want to have a child, it is better to start as soon as possible. Don’t think you will be able to cheat biology with IVF,” Pemberton says. “Yet women are told the complete opposite. They are falsely reassured that IVF will give them what they want, when in reality those trying to have their families in their late 30s or 40s are far more likely to remain childless. IVF can be grueling, exhausting, disappointing, frustrating and, ultimately for many, futile. Yet too many pin their hopes on it.”
“Is it any wonder that research shows 10 per cent of women going through IVF report feeling suicidal?”
While IVF clinics are subject to some restrictions, says Pemberton, there “is no incentive for these clinics to tell women the harsh, unpalatable reality of their own biology. Instead, they sell a fiction that people are eager to hear. Too many in the IVF industry are little more than snake-oil salesmen… Perhaps we, the media, must also take some of the blame.”
Why is the media partially to blame? Pemberton’s analysis is revealing:
For fear of appearing heartless, we avoid asking sensitive questions of celebrity mothers in their 50s who have babies (clearly from donor eggs), but which feed into a myth that motherhood no longer needs to be confined by biological reality. Clinics offering egg-freezing rely on women being scared and wanting to throw money at a problem. But these clinics have a vested interest in convincing women they need to buy into this process as an insurance policy, highlighting their success rates while burying their failures.
The truth is that, all too often, the only thing freezing your eggs brings is a false sense of security.
There is another aspect to this that Pemberton doesn’t mention: the fact that each failed cycle of IVF means that more babies have died. (For the details on IVF and why pro-lifers cannot support it, listen to my interview with pro-life apologist Stephanie Gray on her new book Conceived by Science: Thinking Carefully and Compassionately about Infertility and IVF). The IVF industry’s primary product is dead children, as a vanishingly small number of those created in petri dishes actually survive. This is an industry that sacrifices an unfathomable number of human lives in the hopes that a few survivors will make it.