Leading article: IVF... women's health must come first

 

Share
Related Topics

As society in Britain gets older, the age at which people marry and start families, or have children without partners, is also rising.

One consequence of this trend towards women having their first child on average in their late 20s or early 30s is growing difficulties in conceiving and the rapid growth in demand for assisted reproduction services, such as IVF. Over 45,000 women were treated with IVF in the UK in 2010 and the number goes up each year.

But as we report today, some experts fear that in a largely commercially driven industry, where the pressure for results in terms of pregnancy is enormous, the long-term safety of many women is being put at risk through the use of what appear to be unnecessarily high doses of drugs and risky interventions. According to Professor Geeta Nargund, high-dose stimulation can lead to a condition known as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, OHSS, which at its most severe can cause kidney failure and death and is now one of the biggest cases of maternal mortality in England and Wales.

This is not the case in some other European countries, or in Canada, where milder, less toxic drugs are usually used to stimulate the ovaries, producing lower pregnancy rates but also safeguarding women's health and allowing them to recover faster and repeat the same treatment within a month if they wish.

Most IVF treatment in Britain is private – but this is not a simple case of evil private versus good state medicine. The demand for results and for the use of strong drugs often comes primarily from lobbies representing infertile couples, whose desperation to have children is heartbreaking and whose pressure on the industry to "deliver" – emotional pressure as much as anything else – is relentless.

Nevertheless, there is surely a warning for the rest of the health service here about what can happen when commercial principles are introduced into health, which is that safety concerns can start taking a back seat. At a time when there is much talk of introducing more competition into the health service, we need to be vigilant in ensuring that patient safety continues to trump any other considerations.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

 

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine