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Are People Taking Fertility Treatments Too Far?

article-2480244-1914FEFD00000578-977_634x531QUADS! Sister offers to be surrogate mother after younger sister can’t  conceive and they BOTH end up pregnant with twins

  • Annie Johnston, 33, and her husband Joby,  of Lewis Centre, Ohio, tried for five years to conceive but were  unsuccessful
  • Older sister Chrissy Knott offered to be  a surrogate to help the desperate couple
  • They both had two embryos implanted to  increase their chances of having at least one child
  • Both sisters miraculously got pregnant,  and both with twins
  • Johnston carried the girls while Knott  had the boys
  • The four children were born on October  24

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This is the second case of this happening I have read about in the past few weeks and for some reason I find it upsetting.

fertilityShould doctors be implanting two sets of embryos in two different women in the first place?

Studies have shown that multiple births due to IVFs are actually decreasing because more doctors are refusing to transfer higher numbers of embryos.  After all, becoming pregnant with multiples, especially higher order ones can have severe complications.  Or worse, the couple who have spent all their time and money to have a baby, now pregnant with four, have to consider selective reduction for health or financial reasons.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a lot of multiples being born due to fertility treatments like Intrauterine insemination and the use of fertility medications, because in those cases the doctors have no control over how many viable eggs are produced.

Still, when I read about something like this, and think, “what was the doctor thinking?”.  I suppose I can’t be the one to judge, as long as all the babies will be loved and cared for I suppose it’s not really my business.

I think it’s just the matter of ethics.  surrogacy

The fertility industry is becoming big bucks.  I read an article yesterday about a woman who has made over $12,500 dollars by selling her eggs.  Then, there are all those poor women in India who sell their bodies as surrogates to infertile couples in the western world.  They have to stay confined in a house with dozens of other pregnant women for nine months carrying a baby and they will never see the parents, let alone the child.  Yes, I suppose they make the decisions themselves, I mean, one baby will give them enough money to buy a house, but I can’t imagine the physical and mental trauma that they must go through.  One woman said she did it so that her children “would never have to”, and I can sympathize with that, but just thinking about it makes my heartache.

On the flip side, there are lots of great couples out there who want children and have fertility issues.  Adoption is a long, complicated and expensive process and surrogacy in North America is extremely expensive, so the cheaper India option makes sense.  Although just because its cheaper doesn’t mean you should be implanting multiple embryos in multiple women (again another set of “quads” with two surrogates).

Getting back to the first couple, I suppose you could argue that had they been fertile they could have conceivably (no pun intended) given birth to four children in the five years they were trying to get pregnant.  But still, as this type of thing gets more common, and sensationalized by the media, I think that people are getting desensitized to the fertility industry and the problems with “playing god”.

eggGovernments could step in and create stricter laws I suppose, but then who gets to decide what those laws will be?

So what do you think?  Should people receive more counselling on their options when they are diagnosed with infertility?  Should fertility doctors have better ethics?  Should the government get involved?  Is it nobody’s business?

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About Shannon

I am a university educated full-time working mother of four children. Proudly Canadian, I freeze my butt off along with my loving partner, two dogs and a cat. I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I love writing them, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


12 thoughts on “Are People Taking Fertility Treatments Too Far?

  1. I had a hard time with this story too. I’m confused why they BOTH got implanted when she’d had failed treatments in the past. It seems really odd to me.

    There’s a mom in one of my multiples groups that used a sperm donor to get pregnant via ivf bc she never found the right guy, was 37 and wanted to be a mother. So she did it herself! Implanted 4 embryos and guess what? Quads. She was put on bedrest at 16 weeks with pre-e; delivered at 24 weeks, 1 day. She had severe organ failure because of heelp. One baby didn’t make it. One is still in the NICU, 5 months later. The other 2 are finally home after 4 1/2 months, both on monitors and o2 at home.

    So yes, something is really wrong with the fertility care system.

    Posted by Heather C | November 8, 2013, 11:09 am
    • Thanks for commenting. I am glad I am not the only one who gets a weird sense when reading stories like this. I can’t believe they implanted four embryos! Especially in that case because she was not infertile! Just needing sperm doesn’t mean she would have any trouble getting pregnant, which she obviously didn’t. When I was younger my mom’s colleague ended up with triplets because Sheba the same older and wanted to have a baby wo she went the sperm donor route. Luckily in her case all were born healthy and her mom moved in with her to help. Many babies from pregnancies like that I know or have read about have all kinds of long term health issues, and in her case one didn’t make it, which is very sad. You would think even crooked doctors wouldn’t do this because the more times they have to try to get pregnant the more money they get. Anyways, thanks again for reading 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | November 8, 2013, 11:51 am
      • I know a lot of people who have used ivf to get pregnant, many implants 2 embryos and only 1 taking. Several of them say to me all the time that they’d implant more than 2 to get the chance at twins or higher. And it’s like, yes of course I love my daughters and there’s a whole slew of women who carry their twins to term and have very healthy babies (yourself included if I remember correctly?) BUT there are SO many things that can go wrong. It’s almost like it discredits the pain I felt from the experience of NICU stays, development issues and bedrest because hey, healthy babies now, that’s all that matters. Sorry, hot button for me. 🙂

        Posted by Heather C | November 8, 2013, 2:22 pm
      • I agree. I think two embryos should be the limit. I do understand that it is expensive and people want to increase their chances of success, but the human body was designed to carry one baby at a time, not 3 or 4. As I mentioned it seems doctors are better with that these days, but when it comes to just the usr of fertility meds there is less control over the outcome. Don’t ever be sorry for being passionate about something. And yes, I have twins too.

        Posted by Shannon | November 8, 2013, 3:23 pm
  2. I find the use of surrogates in India absolutely reprehensible. Using someone as a means to an end is gross. Those Indian women would never do it if they weren’t desperate for money. It is exploitation at its worst.

    Posted by Lindsay | November 8, 2013, 12:10 pm
    • Thanks for sharing! I think being a mother and having been pregnant makes me really sensitive to this because I know what pregnancy is like and there is no way you can just hand over the baby and walk away, even if it isn’t yours. I hope the trend does not continue to grow.

      Posted by Shannon | November 8, 2013, 1:02 pm
      • I was a surrogate mother, so I can certainly attest to the whole “can’t just walk away from the baby” thing. I am still a part of the girls lives, and it would destroy me to be treated the way the Indian women are.

        Posted by Lindsay | November 9, 2013, 6:59 am
      • Wow. I am so impressed by your strength and courage. Sometimes the greatest gifts you can give others come at the greatest sacrifices. I think I would do it for someone I loved, but I think it would kill me. I have read stories about these women killing themselves due to ppd and no help. Thanks for sharing.

        Posted by Shannon | November 9, 2013, 10:21 pm
  3. I went through Ivf for my twins. It was my only option for biological children. Luckily it worked the first time. Our DR said it was the medical standard to look at the age of the mother and the quality of eggs used and determine if 1 or 2 embryos should be implanted. In our case he recommended one. He was confident it would work. We knew we were using the only borrowed $10,000 we’d ever have so we opt for two.
    The DR said it was now medical standard (in the states) to put a max number of eggs based on the age and egg quality. For me it was two. I believe this is a state’s rights item so each state may have a different standard. My opinion is that some DRs ignore the standard and do their own thing hoping for no consequences. Thankfully, there still are some ethical DRs out there.
    I will say I was nervous about implanting two. My husband was 100% sure he wanted two implanted. He really wanted twins, and I’ll admit I did too. Having twins, I know I could not have triplets. At least not via fertility treatments. Two is a lot of work!! Lol

    I think this story you posted is an attention scheme either by the DR, the women, or both. I know that sounds harsh, but I know standards exist for number to transfer. It seems they bypassed that by using another person to carry the eggs. I’m not okay with that. I’d like to hear the perspective from someone with triplets or quads.

    Posted by K | November 10, 2013, 7:55 am
    • Thanks for sharing. You are very lucky it worked the first time. Some people spend months and months trying, affecting their work, personal relationships and more. I think two is a good limit for embryos, but it would also depend on the situation.

      Posted by Shannon | November 10, 2013, 5:27 pm
  4. What a wacky story. Hype? Maybe. I’m lucky enough to tell the tale of a successful IVF to our surrogate with two fertilized eggs. No more than two! Only one took and of course that is a bittersweet reality. Love my munchkin. 😉

    Posted by luckymckoy | November 13, 2013, 11:19 pm
    • Congrats. I am glad it worked out for you. By no means am I against surrogacy, I just don’t like to see mom and baby’s health at risk, or the use of desperate people as baby growing machines.
      Nothing in this world worth having comes easy and I am sure you would agree with that every time you look at your little one. Cheers.

      Posted by Shannon | November 13, 2013, 11:23 pm

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