ART and Society
For some, having children is an ultimate goal in their own life-progression. For those unable to become pregnant naturally, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) can bring hopeful parents the successful pregnancy they desire.ART takes many forms, among them are Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) and In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). IUI is also known as artificial insemination, and is where sperm is injected into a woman’s vagina during ovulation with a syringe. It was first credibly used in London as early as 1793. IVF is a more recent development and is where a sperm and egg are combined outside of the uterus, such as in a test tube or a Petri dish. The first successful IVF pregnancy was induced in Australia in 1973. As the demand for assisted pregnancies increasingly flourishes, the frontier of reproductive technology is being pushed forward to enhance inspirational outcomes. Filmmakers have shown light into this world of hospitals, lights and syringes by telling the stories of ART users. “It’s hard for me, because I feel like I might never be a mum,” expresses a discouraged parent in the BBC’s Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic. Hollywood’s Sundance Film Festival premiere, A Private Life (available on Netflix) is a beautiful but pained story that illustrates the dedication a set of hopeful parents have to become successfully pregnant using ART technology.
The business world shares its excitement at fostering hopeful parents’ dreams, by developing safe and effective IVF and fertility treatments. Medical device manufacturers, evidence-testers, clinics and others – like New Hope Fertility and VitaVitro — continue to interest themselves with cutting-edge medical device technology. A company concerned with safety, Pacific Biolabs, offers biocompatibility testing, which determines whether a fertility product might threaten a potential mother or her pregnancy.
Comprehensive measures supporting people in becoming pregnant has opened space for ART’s influence to trickle from science to society. Expanded surrogacy programs provide assistance to both traditional and non-traditional families, affording LGBT+ and single parents the opportunity of biological parenthood.
Uterus transplantation, a potential solution to Absolute Uterine-Factor infertility (AUFI), sees a healthy uterus extracted from a deceased woman and implanted into someone who wishes to carry a pregnancy but is yet physically unable to. Another option is mitochondrial replacement therapy, where the DNA of two mothers and one father can be fused to create one baby’s genomic sequence. This allows non-traditional families to procreate in a novel, innovative way, taking into account their familial make-up. It also presents further opportunities for surrogacy candidates, who wish to utilize the DNA of certain people, perhaps those to whom they feel closest.
Developments like this push the wilder reaches of our imagination. They exemplify the potential that reproductive technology has as we step further into the 21st century. Information from research initiatives like the MIT Human Genome project and companies such as 23andMe can help predict birth outcomes, detect diseases and address genetic abnormalities. Where questions around the ethics of designer babies develop, it is essential to consider the real possibility of preventing genetic disease inheritance by our future children.
With over 8 million IVF babies to date having been born around the world, the resultant joy, relief and happiness has taken an invaluable place in many parents’ lives. ART enables hopeful parents of many backgrounds to give birth. In-turn it has a hand in expanding the sophistication of societies, providing freedom in reproduction through the loosening of gender-norms and expectational relationships which open new opportunities for compositionally non-traditional families. Despite ART’s successes in inducing pregnancies, even the popular and frequently-improved technology of IVF has optimistically just a 50% success rate. Considering the potential for genetic abnormalities and miscarriages, we are reminded that there is much work to be done.
Beyond development, there is a need to extend the reach of reproductive technology to each part of the world where there is the desire for it, and thus support the dreams of those wishing to conceive with assistance. The smart use of medical translation services supports a global interest in assisted fertility, regardless of what language someone is able to speak or read. Perhaps one day, all hopeful parents will be able to share in the miracle creating a new life.
- Dr. Hope
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About CSOFT International
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