By Sola Ogundipe
There is this very successful and very busy couple. The wife is 29 years old and she wants a baby quickly. She wants this baby so badly and so urgently she wants it yesterday. Money is no object so she opts to have the baby through In Vitro Fertilization, IVF. She does not want to waste time and wants to have this baby by the time she is 30. Of course, she could get pregnant in her own bedroom, but she prefers IVF because she doesn’t want to waste time. This is an unusual request isn’t it? But it is an approach that makes sense.
Here is a couple that wants more control over their lives, including their reproductive decisions. Come to think of it why should they have to depend upon nature’s irregularities when they don’t need to? After all, isn’t nature rather inefficient at producing babies, and if they can give nature a helping hand, then why not do so?
They see no risk in performing IVF—either to the woman or to the baby—and they are right.
As a safe and effective treatment, IVF has no downside other than the financial risk. The couple is willing to spend money to buy time. For the woman, it is the perfect time to have a baby and IVF provides her the window of opportunity.
Traditionally, IVF has been used for treating infertile couples. It would be equally valid to use IVF to help couples to achieve personal reproductive goals, as long as those involved make a well-informed decision, and are aware of the plusses and minuses.
It’s no secret that pregnancy rates with IVF are much better for younger women than for older women, so it’s much more cost effective to do it when women are younger. But of course, doing IVF means spending considerable money, but on the other hand, not getting pregnant has even more considerable cost attached to it. Think of the drainage of emotional energy and the time spent waiting, wishing and hoping. No doubt IVF may be more costly in the short term, but on the long run, it is by far more cost effective and time effective for many patients.
While all this is sounds logical, and looks great on paper, it often does not work out well in real life. As an intervention approach, IVF could be time consuming, and patients tend to get fed up and even drop out of treatment rather than move on to the next step. This can be a real tragedy, because such persons, often, are those who could have got pregnant through IVF. This approach might be reasonable for some couples, but as everyone knows, a “one size fits all” approach isn’t always applicable.
For most couples who are desperately trying to conceive, any additional help is a relief and even the slightest chance of improving the probability of conceiving is often seen as a great favour. A couple seeking assisted reproduction technique is usually better off with the treatment option which maximizes chances of conceiving quickly. Ideally, the best option would be to allow couples to make informed choices. Whenever there are options of choice, the responsibility for deciding always depends upon the couple.
Peace of mind
Importantly, IVF gives infertile couples peace of mind that they tried their best — that they gave infertility treatment their best shot. This peace of mind can be priceless! In the past, IVF was considered to be the treatment of “last resort” — and was reserved for patients who had failed all other treatment methods. Today, it is often the treatment of first choice, because it maximises the chance of conceiving quickly, no matter what the medical problem.
Name your price
If most fertility experts had a choice, probably the only treatment they would offer would be IVF. Yes. This is because all gynaecologists/fertility experts want their patients to get pregnant as soon as possible. If couples can become pregnant readily with IVF, then why not use it first rather than as a fall back option when all else fails?
Everything comes back, except time. Time never comes back and opportunity lost is rarely regained. There is a price for everything, and the price paid for the methodical logical approach (such as IVF) to infertility treatment is an opportunity cost.