Infertility is a growing problem is Australia and many other Western countries. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of couples in Australia will have difficulty conceiving a child. Often this is a source of grief and sadness for them. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of women who longed to have children of their own but had trouble conceiving – women such as Hannah, Sarah and Rachel.
Many couples encouraged by the media and the medical profession turn to the “Reproductive Technology Industry” in order for their dream of a child of their own to turn into reality. It is thought that around 3 million children have been born world wide as a result of In Vitro fertilisation. Australia has played a key role in the development of this technology.
The Church does not condemn the motives of couples seeking to overcome infertility problems but says that in using some methods such as IVF, couples do harm to themselves and their children, to the dignity of the human person, and to marriage and family relationships.
Essentially IVF creates a new human life in a laboratory dish away from the bodily embrace of his or her parents. Usually the woman is given a high dose of fertility drugs in order to collect a large number of eggs at once. Often, semen is collected from the male after masturbation. The eggs and sperm are placed in the same dish in the hope that fertilisation will occur. On average around twelve but sometimes as many as forty embryos are manufactured in the hope that one will develop normally and survive to term. The remaining embryos may be frozen for later use, destroyed or used for research and experimentation.
While IVF is often promoted as a modern scientific miracle, experience shows that being involved often comes at a high price. High doses of fertility drugs can be harmful to women’s long term health. Far more embryos are created than are ever used and only around 3.5% of embryos manufactured by IVF survive to birth. The children born as a result of IVF appear to have a higher rate of abnormalities and other problems than those conceived naturally. Some children born as a result of IVF and donor insemination programs are beginning to speak out about the sense of loss, grief, genetic bewilderment, and confused family relationships from which they are suffering. Some feminists also oppose these reproductive technologies. They describe the promises of the new reproductive technology as false, and cruel. They say that women are offered these “solutions” at a time in their lives when they are very vulnerable to exploitation.
Many couples are relatively fertile rather than permanently infertile. There is some evidence that around 50% of couples who have tried unsuccessfully for a year or more will still conceive a child within 5 years. Learning about the women’s cycles can increase a couples’ natural fertility, and their chances of having their own child. A number of organisations assist couples seeking to overcome infertility.
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