Evaluating infertility treatments – Higher

The NHS has to choose which couples they can fund for IVF. If they cannot be treated on the NHS, some people choose to pay privately for treatment. This is very expensive, and costs approximately £5,000.

The chances of a successful pregnancy vary depending on the age of the woman involved. As a woman's age increases, the chance of conception decreases. In particular, the chances of a woman over the age of 43 becoming pregnant decreases to a 5% success rate.

Data from the NHS choices website shows that in 2010, the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:

  • 32.2% for women under 35
  • 27.7% for women aged 35-37
  • 20.8% for women aged 38-39
  • 13.6% for women aged 40-42
  • 5% for women aged 43-44
  • 1.9% for women aged over 44

Advantages of IVF include:

  • It allows people to have babies of their own, who otherwise can't due to a variety of reasons.
  • It has a safe track record and has been used since 1978. The embryos can be screened for genetic diseases, which is important for families that already have an affected child. Only unaffected embryos are used.
  • Unused eggs can be used for research or donated to other couples.

Disadvantages of IVF include:

  • there are side effects from the drugs used, such as hot flushes and severe headaches
  • there is a possibility of multiple births, which is dangerous for mother and babies
  • ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHS), when too many eggs develop in the ovaries
  • it is very emotionally and physically stressful
  • the success rates are not high

Ethical concerns

Some people worry about the ethical implications of IVF. They are concerned that couples may want 'designer babies' with 'desirable' qualities, so may only want certain fertilised eggs. For example, they may want a girl if they have lots of boys in the family.

Also, the embryos that are not used may be destroyed. Some people might view these as new lives, so may consider destroying them to be unethical.

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