IVF as a “lifestyle choice”?

TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp has made headlines again with her views on women and fertility – this time claiming that women shouldn’t see IVF as a “lifestyle choice”. Last time she spoke out about age and fertility, I agreed with her – but this time I’m not sure I do.

I honestly don’t think people do see IVF as a “lifestyle choice” – no one wants to go through IVF, no one “chooses” it. I think perhaps sometimes people assume it can help if they’ve left it later to try to have children – and that can be terribly sad if it’s only then that they discover how low IVF success rates drop once you are into your forties.

She also talks about women having to “run the risk” of pumping drugs into their bodies during IVF. Again, although no one would choose to stimulate their ovaries in this way and ovarian hyperstimulation is a potentially dangerous side-effect if not managed properly, I don’t think it’s very helpful to talk about it as running a risk.  To read many newspapers today, you would believe that anyone who has had IVF is likely to develop all kinds of ghastly long-term conditions as a result of the drugs, when in fact there is no evidence of this kind of health risk.

I’m glad she’s speaking out about this and I think she’s right to encourage women to have children sooner rather than leaving it later if that’s a possibility – but I’m not sure talking about IVF as being risky, or as a lifestyle choice, is terribly helpful.

2 thoughts on “IVF as a “lifestyle choice”?

  1. But of course there’s a risk to IVF drugs! OHSS is an immediate and well documented risk. And there aren’t yet enough long-term follow-up studies of women who’ve done multiple rounds of IVF (including me) to know what risks we may be running. Women with underlying health conditions also run risks when they do IVF – I know this all too well.

    We can sensibly decide on the basis of available evidence that we choose to take those risks, but it’s just not accurate or even very responsible to say there’s no evidence of risk from IVF drugs.

    • Of course you are right about OHSS, but it’s increasingly avoidable. What I was talking about here – and I should have made that clear – is the idea that IVF drugs are linked with alarming long term health risks. There is no evidence at all for this.

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