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“Age shall not wither her
nor custom stale her infinite variety,”
[Words spoken by Anthony in Shakespeare’s
play Anthony and Cleopatra.]
Ivfworld Global Fertility News
IVF doctors resist study that overturns their beliefs
Many fertility doctors are ignoring a radical research finding that reveals women are not in fact born with a lifetime supply of eggs, overturning one of the fundamental beliefs on which reproductive medicine has been based for over fifty years. The research carried out by Joshua Johnson of Harvard Medical School was published more than a year ago in Nature magazine, but fertility doctors are either not keeping up with the latest developments or are reluctant to embrace the findings of this research as it has such far-reaching implications for their work and how they explain the reproductive process to patients.
It has long been assumed that women are born with a fixed supply of follicles that can produce eggs in their ovaries, while men continuously generate new sperm cells throughout their adult lives. But, according to the research carried out by Johnson, female mammals have a reserve supply of cells that replenish the pool of follicles as follicles die.
The results revealed that a reserve of stem cells that form the building reproductive cells exist in females mammals as they do in male mammals. This is a radical departure from previous thinking and, in a study by Antonin Bukovsky in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, it has now been shown that if stem cells are removed from the ovaries and exposed to a growth stimulating hormone, human eggs can be grown in a laboratory.
These developments have enormous implications for couples thinking of fertility treatment. Some may want to explore the possibility of growing eggs from stem cells in a laboratory rather than being pumped with huge doses of drugs in order to produce egg-producing follicles in their ovaries. Growing eggs in the laboratory would avoid the risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation during an ivf cycle and the unknown impact of having large quantities of drugs injected into the body during a series of ivf cycles that may or may not produce a positive outcome. Such an advance could also offer couples the possibility of growing an egg from their own DNA, rather than opting for egg donation.
However, doctors at fertility clinics are still touting old beliefs when they interact with patients. “You’re how old?” said one fertility doctor to a new patient recently as she sat down in front of his desk for her first consultation. “I’ve just turned 37,” she answered. “That’s ancient in terms of reproduction,” he said coldly, as if talking to an inanimate object with no feelings. “But I’ve only just turned 37”, she said with tears starting to well in her eyes.”
The doctor continued unmoved. “Women have a fixed number of eggs from birth and they start to deteriorate rapidly as they get older,” he said in a clinical manner as if she were merely an experiment. “Sperm cells, on the other hand, are renewed continuously.” One could argue that this fundamental belief is borne out of sexism. It has been around for decades and even though it has been challenged by research carried out at one of the top medical schools in the world, many fertility doctors appear reluctant to accept the findings, as it would mean changing the way they think and do things in the field of reproduction.
The woman walked out of the consultation in a state of shock, not because of the regime the doctor had suggested for her ivf cycle but due to the way he had openly humiliated her by calling her “ancient”. He had no bedside manner to speak of and made it quite clear that if the treatment cycle did not work than it was her body that was to blame even though all the tests had concluded that everything was functioning as normal. The message was that her body was fully responsible for whether or not the treatment worked, which is a huge burden to carry. Another fertility doctor said to one of his patient’s: “We don’t make mistakes”.
It is convenient for doctors to stick to the traditional theory that women were born with a fixed number of eggs, because they can more easily pass on the blame to the patient if the treatment does not work rather than accepting responsibility for putting them on, for example, an unsuitable drug protocol. But, at some point, they will be forced to accept the reality and change the way they work and explain things, in order to take into account the latest ground-breaking research that challenges one of the fundamental views of reproductive biology and brings this field into the twenty-first century. Click here if you want to make a comment.
Ivfworld UK Fertility News
Free IVF comes on stream marred by discrimination
Thousands of people are now eligible for free treatment on the National Health Service, ending the post code lottery where a patient can only receive free treatment if they are living in areas of the UK that are sympathetic to people with fertility problems. However, treatment is only free for women under 40 and those over this age feel they are being discriminated against.
A member of ivfworld, who has been through ivf treatment and is just over the age limit said: “Why have they made the age limit under 40? That’s ageist. They’re basically saying that you can’t have a baby past the age of 39. Why discriminate against a generation of women who are trying to conceive later in life because they have pursued careers?”
Although one cycle of free ivf for a particular age group is a move in the right direction, patients say the system is inequitable as it excludes women who have not had the menopause which is a natural cut off point. “Why should a 40 year old be punished for her age by having to pay thousands of pounds for ivf treatment? Men aren’t discriminated against if they decide to conceive at any age." MP David Blunkett, who became a father in his late fifties, being a prime example. Click here if you want to make a comment.