Monday, December 01, 2008

Assisted Reproduction

I read an account, in yesterday's Times magazine, of the author's decision to hire a gestational surrogate. It nicely illustrated the kind of circumstances that can lead to surrogacy: protracted infertility on one side; financial and altruistic benefits on the other.

Coincidentally, a solicitation for the Smile Train ran alongside part of the article. It reminded me of a news item I saw last week linking assisted reproduction (ART) -- particularly in vitro fertilization (IVF) -- with increased incidence of certain birth defects. Among these was a more than doubling of the risk for cleft lip with or without associated cleft palate.

The magazine showed photos of the author's healthy baby. My friends who have used IVF share similarly joyful results. It seems like it would make the decision to pursue IVF much more difficult if you suspected something in the process itself made your baby more at risk for certain defects. On the other hand, any choice to conceive, let alone raise, a child is fraught with risk to that child's health and well being.

Perhaps it is the case that parents going the ART route have considered scenarios and answered hypothetical questions before meeting with a doctor or employing the proverbial turkey baster that the rest of us avoid altogether simply because we can. That does not mean the "unassisted reproducers" don't face risk of loss and complications. Rather, because our initial investment is so low (semen is free), we have the luxury of hoping for the best.



Anonymous Rayven, 2X Gestational Surrogate said...

Yours is the first review of the NY Times article that does not say one single bad thing that I have found!

Did you really like the pictures? There were a few problems with the article, way too many negative comments (literally hundreds) but the pictures? Even I can see where that editor went wrong, and I'm on the columnist's side!

11:24 AM  
Blogger doulicia said...

Ah! Good points. I did not love the article. I do have criticisms of it. I was glossing over all that to get to my main (if not very well-articulated) point about the coincidences of these news items (cleft defects, etc.) and allusions in one place.

It's been almost a week since I read the article. But I remember clearly thinking that the whole thing smacked of designer babiness: wealthy woman (Hamptons? come on!) has baby with help of another woman's uterus and a baby nurse (no, I didn't like the photos). I didn't see anything particularly newsworthy about the story, frankly. that it happened to a magazine staffer is probably the only thing that let it run.

I strongly disliked (though I don't know that I'd act differently in her shoes) the fact that the author singled out someone who was college educated.

I said a bit more about assisted reproduction here. It is a sticky issue.

However, for some reason, I wanted to honor the author's birth story with some restraint of judgment, just as I'd do with a doula client. And she does tell one particular kind of infertility story. Not that there aren't hundreds of others.

So these are some of the reasons why I was not critical in my post, despite having lots of critical thoughts as I read the article. thanks for asking!

12:51 PM  

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