UK Artist Raises Awareness of Egg Donation and Fertility
UK artist Stuart Semple is raising awareness of The Fertility Partnership organization next month with six public art pieces in six cities.
FPO, an organization based out of Missouri, works to help people around the world conceive through a variety of fertility treatments and services, both for men and women, including semen analysis, ovulation induction, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).
“I’m hoping that these temporary public sculptures, and the art pieces that we are giving away, will encourage some important discussions about egg donation and fertility,” said Semple.
In the United Kingdom, the option of using donated eggs is becoming more and more difficult. According to a recent story in the London Evening Standard, over 500 couples in London alone are currently waiting for a donor egg.
“Unfortunately, due to a shortage of donors, the average wait for an egg across the London region is approximately two and a half years with the length of wait increasing year on year,” fertility expert Lara Peterkin told the Evening Standard.
The reason for this wait time, experts say, is that fewer women are donating their eggs every year in the UK.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the egg donation business seems to be going strong. According to a 2006 story in USA Today, around 10,000 children are born each year in the US from egg donation and approximately $38 million is spent compensating donors.
Another technique, called embroyonic adoption, has become popular in the US, increasing the statstics of infertile couples who can bear children. It is generally much less expensive than egg donation, averaging approximately $12,000.
What is Embryo Adaption?
While going through IVF, in which the eggs are fertilized outside of the womb, an infertile couple typically creates multiple embryos. Once a family has completed their family building, any of their remaining embryos are cryopreserved, or frozen for preservation. Couples who were unable to conceive via in vitro, or who can’t afford egg donation, will then adopt a frozen embryo, even if it is not genetically related to either one of the parents. It will still allow them to experience pregnancy and child birth.
It is estimated that more than 600,000 embryos are in frozen storage in the United States.
Just as anything that becomes mainstream, IVF and embryonic adoption have become a matter of public debate and policy, with the conversation surrounding the ethical dimensions of experimentation with embryos.
Pope Benedict XVI, for example, has publicly re-emphasized the Catholic Church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization, claiming it replaces love between a husband and wife. In addition, the church opposes IVF because it might cause disposal of embryos, an argument that can be dismissed by many due to the introduction of embryonic adoption.
With Millennials, however, we are seeing a fundamental shift in ideologies when it comes to family planning.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report showing that birth rates in the U.S. are declining despite a larger population. Some have argued that this decline in births is due to the fact that Millennials are planning to have families later in life.
In 2002 New York Magazine published an article that cited a myriad of studies whose findings were seen as a push to encourage women to have children early on in life, resulting in what they call the “Baby Panic”:
[The panic] all started with a 60 Minutes episode on a new book by Sylvia Ann Hewlett titled Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children. It had scary statistics about the rate of childlessness for women over 40 in corporate America (42 percent) and provided hard facts about the lack of social services for working mothers. But more upsetting than anything else was the science: A woman’s ability to bear a child, Hewlett maintained, drops at 28, goes way down after 35, and diminishes to nearly nothing by 40. By 42, most of the time, you’re cooked.
Since this broadcast, many publications have worked to prove that this fear (of a decrease in fertility after the age of 28) has been oversold and that the statistics on women’s age and fertility—used by many to make decisions about relationships, careers, and when to have children—was nothing more than the mainstream media’s failure to correctly report on and interpret scientific research.
According to an article in the Atlantic, for example, “millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not.”
The article cites a modern study of 770 European women, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2004 and headed by David Dunson (now of Duke University), that found the difference in pregnancy rates at age 28 versus 37 is only about 4 percentage points.
It is true that fertility does decrease with age, but the decline is not steep enough to keep the vast majority of women in their late 30s from having a child. This does not mean that the conversation around fertility treatments should cease, quite the contrary, if nothing more than to give women the confidence to have children when they feel ready, not out of fear.