The dangers of fertility treatment and “old mothers”

In the sixties women underwent fertility treatment based on gonadotrophins. Some of them became pregnant which made them happy. At the time I was uneasy about interfering with nature but the entire matter was hailed as being the solution for infertility. Decades later, some of those women developed that devastating illness, Creutzfeld Jakob, a variant of mad cow disease.

There is no way that such suffering and death could be considered worthwhile.

It may sound harsh, but I am convinced that when a woman or a man is sterile it is nature’s way of protecting the species. To interfere with the natural order is to ask for trouble and can lead to deformities in the child and death, as was the case with those tragic women from the sixties.

What has finally prompted me to write about this is a report in The Age newspaper yesterday on the increase in birth defects among children born to women who have had IVF or ART treatment. According to the paper, “For babies born with the aid of ART between five and six out of every 100 are born with a birth defect.” In some cases the treatment doubled the rate of birth defects such as cleft palates, heart defects and quadrupled problems with the oesophagus and rectum.

According to some experts, that statistic represents a very low risk, since 4 babies out of every 100 will have some birth defect anyway. An increase of 50% does not seem so negligible to me, however. When you couple that with the frightening statistics of Down Syndrome in women who reproduce as they get older, you realise that in reproduction, Nature knows best.

I was astounded to learn that by the age of 49 a woman has one chance in twelve of producing a baby with Down Syndrome. When you look at the statistics of women in their forties, at 40 a woman has a one in 106 chance of producing a child with Down Syndrome. At 45 it’s one in 30. The increased risk is terrifying!

I realise that many women have taken that risk, but I could never do that. In my opinion, Life is hard enough for so-called “normal” people without having to deal with problems caused by birth defects that could have been avoided.

Furthermore, those women with fertility problems will pass on the infertile genes to their ART- conceived children, thereby exacerbating the problem in the future. Why would a mother choose to do that?

I have often written that women who want to have children should have them at an age when they have a better chance of producing healthy offsprings.

It is the older women who usually need ART help in reproduction, thereby increasing the risk of deformities. To postpone such events and risk deformities because of lifestyle choices seems to be extremely selfish as well as dangerous.

I know it sounds like preaching, but loving your child means doing the best for him or her to have a healthy start in life.

So that is why, in my opinion, it is unfair to risk such an important outcome for the sake of career ambitions. The child deserves better than a 6% chance of birth defects, or worse still, a one in 12 chance of having Down Syndrome.


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