This article looks at IVF side effects and costs and explains why IVF should never be the first choice but should only be used once all has been done to address underlying causes and optimize reproductive health through natural means first.
The evolution of modern medicine over the last 100 years has been phenomenal. Keyhole surgery and some of the diagnostic tools available today have made it possible to identify and deal with certain health problems in ways we could never have imagined before.
Post accident and trauma treatments are miraculous as are the replacements of worn joints. Thanks to modern technology and procedures we can now have artificial joints, cardiac bypasses, donor organs, pace makers and postpone death for longer. But at what price? And what quality of life can we expect if we are dependent on two fistfuls of prescription drugs, one for our condition and the other to counteract the side effects of the first fistful? And why did we allow our health to deteriorate so far in the first place?
Technology can not prevent disease nor enhance one’s wellbeing and overall health. Technology can not remove the cause of a disease or a condition. Only you can do that.
Somewhere in the last 100 years we started believing that these amazing advances in medicine will take care of anything that goes wrong in the course of our lives and that we don’t have to do anything on our part to stay healthy and well.
Some 20 years ago tables have turned when we got a healthy dose of reality check. Drugs bring in tow an array of side effects and contraindications, of which, some can be quite debilitating and can significantly reduce the quality of life.
Infertility treatments are no different;
There is a place for assisted reproduction technology and sometimes that is the only viable option. Having said that, even if you choose that option without trying natural methods first, just remember that you can actually do both to double your chances of success with ART.
A study on IVF side effects by Foresight, the Association for Pre-conceptual healthcare in the United Kingdom shows that couples going through IVF are up to 47% more successful if they used pre-conceptual health care program first.
The same study demonstrated an astounding success rate of 81% of conceptions among couples previously diagnosed as infertile. Among those who conceived there were no IVF side effects like miscarriages, no perinatal deaths, no malformations and no newborn admissions to intensive care. Women who participated in the study were between 25 and 45 years old and Men between 25 and 59 years old. (Pract. Midwife)
Those numbers speak for themselves, not to mention the following figures which illustrate the financial implications.
Financial Costs of ART
In the US an average IVF cycle costs between $10,000 and $15,000. Analysts have reported costs of about $35,000 per delivery in younger women, while medical costs per delivery are over $132,000 for women over 40. (Marc Perloe, Your Total Health)
Additional charges apply if you choose a donor, artificial insemination and freezing, ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and PGD (Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis). You health cover may not even cover the newer procedures as they’ve only been around for a short time and the risk factors as well as generational effects have not yet been established. Besides for women over 40 IVF is up to 4 times less cost effective. (The Medical Journal of Australia)
An Australian costing study found that the average health care cost per non-donor ART live birth was $ 32, 903 ($24,809 if under 30 and $97,884 if under 40). The cost of live birth for women aged 42 and over was $182,794! (The Medical Journal of Australia)
Studies have shown that IVF drugs are dangerous for the health of mothers as well as babies and there is no clear evidence they increase a woman’s chance of conceiving. Multiple studies on IVF side effects have documented the high risk of birth deformity and severe health problems associated with IVF births. A study from Finland in 2005 showed 43 babies out of every thousand conceived using IVF techniques suffered from a variety of IVF side effects like abnormalities that included genetic deformities, brain disorders, developmental delays and genital malformations. (Dr. Geeta Nargund).
Dr. Alastair Sutcliffe of the Institute of Child Health at University College London and Dr. Michael Ludwid of the Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecologic Endocrinology in Hamburg, conducted a study where they examined 3,980 articles in medical and scientific journals published between 1980 and 2005. The study results showed that there are significantly higher risks of long-term IVF side effects and medical problems for children conceived via IVF and other artificial means such as ICSI. The doctors have advised that the children should be monitored well into the adulthood as there are no long term data available about IVF side effects on their health as adults.
The study on IVF side effects showed that there is:
Another study on IVF side effects conducted in 2007 showed that children conceived through IVF visit hospitals significantly more times than naturally conceived children.
Dr. Marjo – Riita Jarvelin, professor at Imperial College London reported that certain disease groups such as infections, respiratory and inflammatory diseases and neurological disorders were more common among those born after IVF.
In addition concerns have been raised about the impact of IVF on mental health of the women undergoing the procedures. Such high unnatural doses of artificial hormones play havoc with a woman’s body and mind which is only worsening already distressed and depressed state many women experience as a result of inability to conceive.
Researchers have warned that women seeking treatment for infertility have an increased rate of depressive symptoms and possibly major depression. (Hum. Reprod.)
In the light of the numerous concerns that have been raised among scientists about the increased risk of serious undesirable side effects F. Comhaire and A. Mahmoud from the Centre for Medical and Urological Andrology, Ghent University Hospital in Belgium concluded that:
“IVF and ICIS treatments must be reserved as the ultimate option after evidence-based and cause-directed treatment of the male patient with deficient semen has been exhausted”.
Furthermore Dr. Geeta Nargund, head of reproductive medicine at St. George’s Hospital in London, warned about consequences for a woman’s reproductive organs later in life, especially uterine cancer. Dr. Nargund pointed out that IVF drugs used by fertility clinics are unregulated, and since the existing guidelines are not binding fertility clinics are free to prescribe dangerously high doses of drugs, even though there is NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE to show that it will help the women conceive, nor what the long term consequences are. The bottom line is more research is needed.
Couples are emotionally, physically and financially broke after repeated cycles of IVF. The last thing they need if they do get pregnant, is a miscarriage or a still born baby, not to mention the heartache and continual financial strain in case of a child with malformations and frequent visits to a hospital or a lingering worry about woman’s health as she approaches older age where a natural tendency towards declining health already exists.
Taking all of this into account (and that’s not even all there is!) it is only fair to say that IVF IS A BAD FIRST CHOICE. Be aware of the IVF side effects and leave it as the last option, after you’ve optimized your natural fertility which will only make you healthier in the long run and improve your odds of conception. And since you can use preconception health care with IVF, by all means make use of that choice to really minimize all the risks of IVF side effects to your and your baby’s health (and your partner’s indirectly) should you still opt for IVF in the end.
Thoughts on IVF side effects? I look forward to your comments!
Iva Keene is co-founder and director of Natural-Fertility-Prescription.com. She has been a qualified, accredited Naturopathic Physician for over 13 years, holds a Bachelor's degree in Health Science and a Masters degree in Reproductive Medicine. Since founding NFP in 2008, Iva's articles, videos, guides and reports have reached over 1.3 million people. Iva has dedicated her professional life to supporting couples on their path to parenthood with scientifically grounded information, protocols and coaching around preconception care, natural infertility treatments and integrative reproductive health.