Whether you’re all snowed in due to the Northeast blizzard, or you just have some free time and you’re looking for an interesting read, I’ve got just what you need. Here are four great articles about fertility treatments, reproductive science and pregnancy loss. I hope you’ll find them as thought-provoking and compelling as I have.
The High-Tech Future of the Uterus (The Atlantic)
In 2014, a Swedish woman gave birth to a baby boy who developed in a transplanted uterus that was donated to her by her 61 year old friend. This is a groundbreaking medical achievement, and the next frontier for scientists is even more extraordinary: bioengineering an artificial womb that could allow for uterus transplants without the need for a donor. I know this sounds like science fiction, but take a moment to think that just 40 years ago, the idea of fertilizing an egg outside the body and then implanting it in the womb sounded fictional too. Yet today, as many as 165,000 women in the US undergo IVF every year. It’s hard to tell what new technologies will become the norm 40 years from now, but this article in The Atlantic sheds light on some promising nascent technologies, and has certainly fueled my imagination.
The Brave New World of Three Parent IVF (The New York Times)
You’re probably aware of donor sperm and donor eggs – even donor embryos – but have you ever heard about donor mitochondria? In the 1990’s, at least 30 women became pregnant through an IVF procedure that involved the injection of cytoplasm from another woman’s eggs. The procedure never went mainstream, but now researchers in the US and Britain are beginning clinical trials for a similar technique. The New York Times explores the scientific basis for their research, the quest for FDA approval, and the ethical implications of creating three-parent babies. As I was reading this, I was thinking about the couples participating in these experiments and their willingness to go into the unknown in order to achieve pregnancy. Would I be willing to take the risk of being a guinea pig in the hopes of having a baby? I don’t know the answer yet, but I’m grateful for those who are, and in doing so are helping advance the science of reproduction that many of us are so reliant on.
Thanksgiving in Mongolia (The New Yorker)
The raw energy of Ariel Levy’s account of her late-term miscarriage in Mongolia has been haunting me ever since I read it for the first time more than a year ago. Gut wrenching and beautiful, Levy’s story is not for the faint of heart. It is almost guaranteed to break your heart and bring tears to your eyes, yet there is something so sincere and touching about it that I couldn’t stop reading. As she shares the happiness of pregnancy and the deep grief and guilt of losing a child she only got to meet for a brief moment, Levy courageously gives voice to the many women who silently go through the invisible loss that a miscarriage too often is.
How Sperm Become One of America’s Hottest Exports (The Verge)
This article is focused on the male side of fertility treatments, and more specifically – sperm donation. It turns out that the United States is one of the largest exporters of sperm in the world, and international demand for American sperm is on the rise. The popularity of American sperm is the result of several factors: from higher standard for disease testing and donor screening, to limited regulations on the number of donations a man can make and the compensation he’ll receive for them. This is an interesting exploration of both the business of sperm donation and of the individual experience of an American donor.