In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), is the procedure whereby human babies are conceived, not in the womb but in a test tube or a Petri dish. This procedure has become one of the greatest developments in the world of medical technology. In Vitro Fertilization has given infertile couples the chance to conceive and bear a child from a full term of pregnancy. Without this procedure, their infertility would render them childless.
There are many aspects of the IVF program that have been both praised and criticized. The legal, ethical and social repercussions of the IVF program have created great debate and controversy. This essay will demonstrate the procedures used in the IVF program and set out the arguments for and against it.
There are many reasons why couples cannot conceive or bear a child for a full term of pregnancy. The process of natural fertilization can only be achieved if the male and female reproductive organs are functioning without any abnormalities.
The reproduction process begins with the male producing sperm in the testes and the female producing an egg in the ovaries. Once every 28 days or so, an egg matures in the ovary, bursts from its follicle and enters the Fallopian tube.
Once sexual intercourse has taken place, millions of sperm released from the penis swim up the vagina, through the uterus and into the Fallopian tube. A single sperm fertilizes the egg; the others are locked out.' (Time, 1997, pg. 66) Once the egg has been fertilized, cell division begins and the embryo drifts down the Fallopian tube. The embryo reaches the uterus in about a week. The embryo anchors itself to the wall of the uterus where it develops into a foetus. The foetus feeds off nutrients and oxygen provided by the placental lining in the uterus.
There are several conditions in both males and females that cause abnormalities in the functioning of natural fertilization.
Firstly, a condition in women called Endometriosis causes infertility. It is a condition where pieces of uterine tissue leak out of the uterus into the Fallopian tube.'(Fertility Rights, 1993, pg. 6) It causes blockages in the Fallopian tubes and is associated with infertility even when the Fallopian tubes are not actually blocked.' (Fertility Rights, 1993, pg6)
Secondly, the cause of infertility in men is a reduced sperm count, or low sperm motility, which greatly reduces the chances of successful fertilization.
And lastly, about 10% of infertility is due to unknown causes.' (Fertility Rights, 1993, pg. 6) After one year of infertility, couples whose infertility has been investigated without ascertaining cause may be admitted to IVF.
The three causes of infertility mentioned are the most common among infertile couples, although, problems such as a loss of production of eggs due to radiation treatment or damage to the reproductive organs due to bad accidents can also be a reason for infertility.
Many of the conditions which cause infertility can be overcome and pregnancy can be achieved by using one of the many artificial impregnating techniques and treatments. These include:
IVF - in Vitro Fertilization is the process where eggs are harvested from the ovary and fertilized in a Petri dish. After embryos begin to develop, they are placed in the uterus.' (Time, 1997, pg. 66) This process is carried out while the patient is under general anesthetic and fine needles and tubes are used to retrieve eggs and implant embryos. The treatment cycle for IVF is as follows:
1 Follicle growth (stimulated by injections).
2 Timing of ovulation (based on blood tests and ultrasound
3 Egg collection from the follicles (egg pick-up), using the