IVF: No surveillance for 'solution' business as women continue to bear brunt of infertility blameFarida Akhter || Saturday 23 December 2023 ||
1 August, 2023
In 1978, the birth of Louise Brown, the first in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or test tube baby, signalled the end of worries for infertile women in rich countries in the West. Here was a solution to fertility issues, a matter which often resulted in further trauma for women who experienced those.
The IVF method is used by "infertile" couples to have children.
The process involves the fertilisation of an egg combined with sperm in vitro ("in glass").
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The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman's ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova (egg or eggs) from her ovaries and letting the sperm fertilise them in a culture medium in a laboratory.
The child is conceived outside the body, then transferred by catheter into the uterus.
The method, touted as the solution, however, is successful in 35-40 of each 100 women who undergo the process. In other words, almost 60% of women don't get to see a baby.
Currently, the infertility rate in Bangladesh is 20%, according to those who provide the IVF service.
Their data shows that couples are unable to conceive 40% of the time because the wife is infertile, 40% because the husband is infertile, 10% both and another 10% due to unknown problems.
A couple's physical condition isn't only the root cause – eating habits, environmental pollution, use of pesticide in food production, detergents etc are all causes.
Even special birth control measures can cause infertility.
Many also point to the age of when a woman is trying to conceive. In fact, if a woman delays childbirth due to career or studies – be they borne of societal or economic needs – her fault is magnified.
For men, however, it is not the case. Most men are absolved of any blame and the women are blamed, even without proper examination. The women are then tortured in different ways, especially psychological.
Sometimes, a husband is forced to accept a second marriage.
Can IVF solve these issues? And when IVF fails – as it does for 60% of all who go through the process – it only results in worsening psychological stress.
The stories of success of the procedure are also a little funny. Photos show doctors, newborns wrapped in blue or white and couples smiling. The baby is reduced to being just a product. It seems to morph into something made at a factory, with ownership of the commodity lying with the creators.
The IVF is conducted in the country and while it is advertised, details are not forthcoming.
There is no information on the cost of IVF treatment here. A quick browse through the internet puts the figure at Tk1-3 lakh.
The failure of the process also doesn't have any compensation. It's a game of chance, the results of which are etched into the foreheads of the couple.
The IVF technology, the so-called solution, is clearly for commercial gain, not to comfort childless couples.
The method has also garnered its fair share of controversy. Feminists scientists have openly protested against it.
They have also pointed out a glaring hypocrisy – the rich Western world, which promotes child control methods in developing countries – often a forced promotion – does the opposite back home where it uses new new reproductive technology or assisted reproductive technology to turn women into child-bearing machines.
And while the IVF has a low success rate, the business of it is a clear success.
In Bangladesh, IVF was introduced in 2001. The UBINEG, a non-profit organisation, has been researching the use of this technology in Bangladesh since then.
At first there was only one IVF centre, but now there are 12, with many hospitals seeing it as their cash cow.
However, there are still no experts in the country to use IVF technology.
A course has been launched at the Dhaka Medical College and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, but there is no policy regarding the use of the technology in the country.
Some centres are providing the treatment with just one course, often without the consultation of a gynaecologist. Few tests are also being conducted.
In 2000, the first centre called "Center for Assisted Reproduction" was started by Parveen Fatima.
In an interview, she said in the beginning there was no equipment, technicians, those who knew how to handle the process or even an embryologist.
Her pediatrician husband worked as an embryologist with some training. This was how IVF started.
The situation has not improved much yet.
It can be understood that there is no monitoring of the Ministry of Health here. There are no rules, that's clear. But the IVF has appeared as a huge "solution", big enough to circumvent some of the rules.
Two types of technology have been used in IVF since the beginning: test tubes and frozen embryos.
Both these, without proper supervision, have only become means of business. Even though it's a worry, no action is taken against the causes of infertility. And at the end the women bear the brunt of the blame.
It was the World IVF Day on 25 July. This day has come and gone.
But when will the real issues be addressed?
Disclaimer: The opinions and thoughts expressed in this article solely reflect the author's views. Those are not endorsed by The Business Standard.
Published: The Business Standard; 31 July, 2023. (IVF: No surveillance for 'solution' business as women continue to bear brunt of infertility blame)