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Infertility Treatment: Setting the Record Straight

by Beth Ann Panella, President, Board of Directors; Rebecca Lubens, Executive Director, Susan Miccile and members of the Board of Directors, RESOLVE of the Bay State, Inc.,  RESOLVE, Bay State Chapter,  May 1, 2009

Since the recent birth of octuplets to a California woman, the ensuing media frenzy has thrust infertility and assisted reproductive technology into a harsh spotlight. Infertile women are being portrayed as addicted and obsessed with baby making, while infertility specialists are depicted as unethical medical renegades. In a dangerous new twist, politicians in Georgia and Missouri are jumping on the anti-octuplet mom bandwagon and have introduced legislation that would punish
all infertile individuals living in those states by severely restricting their access to IVF treatment.

We at RESOLVE of the Bay State, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education, advocacy, and support of people with infertility, are compelled to clarify the fallacies surrounding this hotly debated topic and to affirm that the overwhelming majority of infertile patients and their doctors behave thoughtfully and responsibly.

For example, a look at the 2007 data just released by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine shows that the percentage of live triplet births to mothers under age 35 receiving infertility treatment fell from 6.4% in 2003 to 1.8% in 2007. This figure represents a significant decrease and a concerted effort by the profession to reduce multiple births. Infertility doctors are already working to ensure that women who receive treatment are most likely to carry one healthy
baby to term.

In Massachusetts, we have mandated insurance coverage for infertility treatment (one of only 14 states) that allows the highly trained, well respected doctors here to be able to practice the best possible medicine and carefully follow the recommended treatment guidelines. Data show that in 2006, Massachusetts’ infertility clinics transferred between 1.7 to 2.1 embryos per transfer in
women under the age of 35, and that insurance coverage is associated with fewer embryos transferred per cycle and a decrease in the number of multiple births.
It is when patients are forced to pay for procedures out of their own pocket that they feel desperate to make the most of one costly effort to conceive, and risks may be taken with treatment. In these cases, doctors do not follow the professional practice guidelines set by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and American Medical Association (AMA), to name a few.

In addition to knowing more about the realities of the practice of reproductive medicine, it is also important to understand infertile people and their challenges. Infertility is a very real disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body’s ability to perform the basic function of reproduction. Statistics show that one out of seven individuals of childbearing age will face a problem in becoming or staying pregnant. There are 7.3 million people, both women and men, in the United Sates suffering with infertility.

Most of us take for granted our plans to someday have a baby. The deep longing for a baby and a genetic connection to that child are fundamental human needs, and we expect to be able to easily realize our family-building dreams. When an individual receives the devastating news that he or she cannot have a child without medical intervention, it is overwhelmingly painful and difficult to understand.

Building a family is a major life event, and when the disease of infertility derails
that aspiration, couples and individuals experience heartache, isolation, depression, strained relationships with friends and family, and possibly even dissolution of marriages.

Those who haven’t experienced infertility may not comprehend how this diagnosis takes a profound financial and physical toll on an individual whose cherished dream is simply to have a baby, just like everyone else. Infertility patients want to create their family as they envisioned it, with reasonable expectations, and excellent professional medical help. Infertile people deserve the compassion and empathy needed to allow them the opportunity to resolve their infertility on
their own terms.


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