You Give IVF a Bad Name

When I first heard about the women in California who had given birth to octuplets, I thought that surely this was a case of someone who had used fertility treatments and had experienced an incredibly rare circumstance, whereby multiple embryos had split in-utero, resulting in eight babies.

Then it came out that this wasn't the case at all, that she had done IVF, and that her fertility doctors had shockingly transferred eight embryos (an unprecedented number) and each took.

Finally, it came out that the woman was a single mother, living at home with her parents, and that she had six other children, all of whom were conceived via IVF too.

And then I became pissed off.

Having gone through IVF (and an FET) myself, I know a bit about the protocol and ethics behind it. To my knowledge, transferring eight embryos is unheard of. From what I've read and heard about embryo transfer over the years, the maximum number most doctors will transfer is four, and usually a transfer of four in the U.S. only occurs in women of advanced maternal age whose embryo quality is not ideal. This is because transferring more than four embryos not only puts the babies at risk should all four embryos take, but it also places the mother's life at a considerable risk as well. Twin, triplet, and higher-order pregnancies come with a number of serious complications (trust me, I know). For the octuplets' doctor to have transferred eight is not only irresponsible but borders on malpractice. I believe there is more to the story here.

IVF is already viewed in many circles as "playing God." Those who have suffered from infertility, or know someone close to you who has, understand the incredible stress, pain, and heartbreak of being unable to conceive and appreciate the medical technology that exists to make parents out of those yearning for a child. But I would wager a guess that the majority of the population holds a negative view of IVF. We infertiles should "just adopt" because obviously God never meant us to be parents.

A few months ago I wrote an opinion piece for my city's newspaper advocating for IVF to be covered by insurance here in New York. You wouldn't believe the amount of hateful email I received from people equating IVF to a boob job or rhinoplasty-in other words, "lifestyle medicine." I later "appeared" on a radio call-in show to defend my position and received more of the same, although this time, I was pitted against a doctor (an opthamologist) who argued against my views.

My own extended family believes IVF is wrong, although their reasons are rooted in their Catholic faith. Never mind that their lives have been incredibly enhanced by my three children.

My point is that this story isn't doing IVF and those who undergo it any favors. The woman's mother has said in interviews that she believes her daughter is obsessed with having children. The octuplets' mother is unemployed, unmarried, and lives in her parents' small home with her six other children. This isn't the case of an infertile couple's low-order embryo transfer resulting in the freak circumstance of embryo-splitting. From all accounts, this is the story of an unbalanced and possibly emotionally disturbed woman and a fertility doctor exercising bad judgement that borders on the criminal. In other words, this is exactly the kind of press IVF doesn't need.

I feel sorry for this woman. I feel even sorrier for her 14 children. But I'm also sad for all the couples going through fertility treatment right now in order to conceive. Because of this story, they'll no doubt have to explain to friends and family "in the know" that 99.9% of reproductive endocrinologists are ethical and moral, that no, they won't have 8 children themselves, and that no, IVF is not an unregulated, backroom science experiment. It's a medical procedure performed with the goal of achieving a single, successful pregnancy.

Without it, these three little monkeys wouldn't exist.


On a completely different (and much lighter) note, the new issue of Root & Sprout, the online parenting magazine, is now live. It's a great time to start reading the magazine. Why, you ask? Well, because yours truly has been hired to write for it. So, if you like what you read here, make sure you check out Root & Sprout for my articles (and others' too, if you're so inclined). My regular articles will begin appearing in next month's issue.

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15 Responses to “You Give IVF a Bad Name”

  1. # Anonymous Ness

    In my early twenties, WAY before I had kids, I didn't know anyone who was having fertility problems (that I was aware of) or even know anyone who was adopted, or wanted to adopt. Totally small view of the world. I was of the opinion that people who 'couldn't' 'should adopt'. Wasn't that natures way of taking care of all the orphans out there? I would think to myself. Then I had my first kid. It might have been seconds, or maybe several sunlit days into holding my precious bundle in my arms that it dawned on me that NO WOMAN should EVER be ROBBED the OPPORTUNITY and BLESSING of experiencing that which I was now experiencing. My opinion of fertility treatment turned into, just another way that God or The Universe or whatever you want to call it, has brought us, for others to experience the miracle.

    Frankly, the religious, who hold such extreme views on the subject should remember that religion, is actually man made. As are all the rules that govern it, maybe broadening their minds a little would help them see that. I'm guessing that sometime in your future, some of your extended family will see your kids and appreciate that they are no less special/angelic/devine than other children simply because they were conceived 'immaculately' :)  

  2. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    I guess I must be living under a rock, because I had not heard any of the controversy surrounding these babies until now. I am so shocked, I do not know what to say.

    And while I would not judge a woman who chooses IVF (I would do the same procedure), I will judge that woman who acts irresponsibly with regard to her health and that of her children. And the doctor? I'd strip him of his medical license.  

  3. # Blogger Mom24

    I definitely think the doctor should have to answer questions to a medical board. The whole thing is such a mess. I feel so sorry for those babies. It's an awful situation. I find myself hoping that companies do not jump through all sorts of hoops to help her, and yet, that will hurt the children. So, so sad.

    All of that being said, to me, this really is not about IVF, although your points are certainly well made and valid. I'm sorry for the extra scrutiny and explaining couples choosing IVF will go through.

    I also feel sad for the (few?) families that choose to have a large number of children and can provide and take care of them. I think there's definitely going to be a backlash here against them. I don't think it's right to judge a woman harshly because she wants a lot of children, I would judge her harshly because she's having children with no thought or plan of how to take care of them. That is just plain horrible whether it's one child or fourteen.

    Once again, you captured the moment perfectly. I am very thankful that the procedure exists, that there are doctors who practice it responsibly, and that you got your three wonderful children with it's help.  

  4. # Blogger Jesser

    That story made my blood boil. It's sort of the same way I feel about my MIL ... alternately extremely pissed and sort of sorry for her. Obviously there is something wrong with this woman.

    I think it's interesting that you feel that most people are against IVF. I would never have thought that, but I have never been in your position. I was also shocked as to how many people oppose same-sex marriage too, so maybe I'm just a wee bit sheltered or something. In my mind, adoption and ART are completely different and not a substitute for the other. "Just adopt" is like saying "Just jump across the Grand Canyon." It ain't that simple and there's a high probability of something crashing and burning.

    I'm not sure I'd go as far as to say IVF should be covered by insurance. But I'm also not sure it shouldn't be. Still haven't quite resolved that one for myself. But in any case, I think this story is horrible press for IVF and ART in general. In the mean time I will pray (and I'm not really the praying sort) for those kids and that totally sick woman.  

  5. # Anonymous Gracie's Daddy

    Yeah, that sure seems irresponsible (and dangerous) to me, too!

    The other question that arose was, as single mom, living with her parents...


    We had to sell our home to pay for our IVF, and yes, we too were told that the standard was 4 embryos to avoid risk to the baby(s).

    'Course, by the time we got into the office for implanting, there was only one viable embryo left, and our doctor basically told us, "Well, it's pretty long odds, but you're HERE anyway..."

    That's why we call Gracie our miracle baby, lol.

    This story seems more like those old frustrations about people who get pregnant over and over without even trying, except she's doing it with IVF…and paying for it!



  6. # Blogger Diet Cokehead

    I am sickened by what that woman did, and her doctor whoever he/she was should be whatever the medical equivalent of disbarred is. The most sickening thing of all is that she is going to profit off of all this, she is already fielding offers of over 2 million dollars for interviews! Before we know it, she's going to have her own show on TLC.  

  7. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    I couldn't agree more with you. I really want to know what the doctors were thinking and how this woman could afford this. We watched the Larry King about this, and although I'm not a fan of the Jon and Kate + 8 woman (she's really snippy), I really liked what she had to say about it.  

  8. # Blogger Damselfly

    I think everyone was shocked to find out the woman with octuplets already had six children. I mean, if you like big families, fine. But ... wow!

    And I agree -- just what were the doctors thinking when they transplanted 8 embryos? That's crazy.

    When you wrote that your children wouldn't be here without IVF and posted their picture, it almost made me cry a little.  

  9. # Blogger Damselfly

    PS I posted my belly shot for you on my blog. :) And I'm happy I'm not carrying eight children!  

  10. # Blogger Tracey

    Exactly! How COULD she afford it? 6 other IVF pregnancies and now a seventh pregnancy resulting in 8 more kids? Where is this money coming from??  

  11. # Blogger kenju

    For me, the true culprits here are the doctors who did her IVF. Why on earth they would agree to do it is beyond me. They should be barred from practicing medicine.  

  12. # Blogger Shannon

    i know before we had Lorelei... and I looked into IVF... there was no way we could afford it... at all... so we gave up on having kids because we also couldn't afford adoption either... we got lucky... lore is a miracle...

    then I saw this... and wanted to beat the woman... single... on disabilities checks for a bad back... which gets worse with each pregnancy... and lives with her family... what the heck... she is nuts... and she does give IVF a bad name...  

  13. # Anonymous Gracie's Daddy

    Okay, so here's another log for the fire...

    Momma now has a website to accept "donations" for her kids...


    -Gracie's Daddy  

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  15. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Quite right! So.  

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