Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why it is not my responsibility to solve the problem of children in care.

Today NICE has released new guidelines saying that IVF should be offered earlier and up to 42. This means they believe the maximum age for IVF on the NHS should be raised from 39 - 42 and that women should be seen sooner than they are, after 2 years of trying rather than the current three. Naturally, as someone who had IVF just weeks before my 40th birthday (after I appealed against a decision that said I was too old) I very much support the idea that IVF provision on the NHS moves with the times and reflects the fact that many women are continuing to have babies naturally when they are in their early 40s.

IVF and the discussions around it always seems to bring out the worst in people and there are many reasons why the fertile (or the just plain loony) population feel that IVF is evil, and more evil when given to 'the old'.

1. We shouldn't be playing God. Well, sorry to disappoint you but the argument is majorly flawed by the fact that there is no 'God' but that aside why would anyone accept the actions of a 'God' who is cruel enough to point a finger at a large percentage of the population and say 'YOU - You're not getting any useable sperm, and YOU - You're going to have cancer and the treatment is going to leave you infertile, and YOU - you've got PCOS, no children for you my love'? Infertility is NOT 'God's will', it's a horribly distressing and life-changing event which can happen to men AND women and which can often be rectified by some simple science. If a couple or an individual feel they are strong enough to go through everything involved in fertility treatment then why not? Are they harming anyone else?

2. Why don't you just adopt? There are so many poor children in care. Yes? Well how many of those poor children have you adopted then? This argument really bugs me, and is usually trotted out by women who have happily given birth to a gaggle of children but think that the infertile should be responsible for solving the children in care crisis. Apart from the fact that it's quite difficult to adopt and a much lengthier process if you are trying to adopt after failed fertility treatment, it's also pretty certain that the child you end up adopting will come with a multitude of problems that not everyone will be comfortable with or equipped to deal with. THAT'S why so many children are in care, not because the infertile are just too selfish and lazy to bother trying but because those children are difficult, damaged and hard to help. All power to people who really do want to help these children, and let's hope that the process is shortened so that children are helped sooner, but it really isn't my responsibility to take in unwanted children if I don't want to. perhaps some of the people who trot this line out should think about slotting a child in care into their lives, perhaps somewhere between baby number three and four? And in case you were wondering only 70 babies were adopted in the UK last year. Many many more children are taken into care than babies and many babies spend so long in care they are toddlers and children with complex difficulties by the time they are adopted, if at all, on average a child will spend 2.7 years in care.

3. The money should go to cancer treatment not IVF. Infertility is an illness, sometimes it is an illness brought on by cancer treatment and anyway, I pay my taxes and apart from my IVF I haven't been a major drain on the NHS in the last 40 years so why shouldn't I expect to be able to get help when I have a problem with conception? Most of all I just really hate the 'there are starving children in Africa' kind of theory; Am I not allowed to have one kind of treatment because there are other people who need another kind of treatment? How about we work towards making all treatments cheaper and easier? Wouldn't that be a better thing to fight about? I for one would never tell a person who needed cancer treatment that they shouldn't be allowed to have it because then I could have IVF.

4. You should have thought about it earlier instead of having a career. Well hold on a minute... Aside from the fact that many older women have not had careers, just bog standard jobs, why shouldn't women concentrate on a career/job before (and after) having children? Why shouldn't we want to be able to support ourselves and the families we want to have? There's nothing wrong at all with having children in your 20s, there's nothing wrong with waiting until you are older. Different strokes for different folks. Yes, I do agree that women need to be aware of the dip in ferlitity ater a certain age but it really isn't one size fits all and it's not true that every woman in her late 30s has been climbing the career ladder. And here's the biggie: MEN. What part can they play in this? Quite often it is not the career that holds you back, it's the fact that you haven't found the right man to have a baby with. Not every woman wants to just settle for any old sperm donor at the age of 25. Some of us want to find a life-partner; Some of us think we have found a life-partner only to realise that they don't want the same life we do, that they stall and stall for years and then we find ourselves stuck in a bad situation with worsening fertility. Plus, let's not forget that a significant number of IVF treatments (and other fertility treatments) come about because of male infertility which is increasing year on year, perhaps it's not the career that has held women back but their partner's infertility. lastly - by the time you realise you might have a fertility problem quite often you are nearing the existing cut-off age for treatment. Add on another year or more of waiting for treatment (or trying other things like Clomid or IUI) and often you end up just over that limit.

5. 40 is just too old to be having a child. Well medically it's not. My grandmother was 43 years old when she had her last baby - naturally, my sister too. People wouldn't be having babies into their 40s naturally if 40 was too old. Your body tells you when you are too old by giving you the menopause and most people are not menopausal at the age of 40. When I read comments like this they are often from 20 somethings who are yet to reach the age where the penny drops that being thirty something and approaching 40 is not old at all, not these days. At 40 you are still expected to work for another 20 + years, if you have a child at 40 you can reasonably expect another 30 years or so on the plannet barring major illness which could, lets face it, happen at any time. Plus, you only have to check out the statistics to see that women have always had babies in their 40s and it's only the fairly recent introduction of the pill that has resulted in women having fewer babies in their 20s/30s. in 2011, 29,350 babies were born to mothers over 40 but between 1943 and 1948 the figure was over 30,000 (for each year) peaking at over 34,000 in 1947. So - you see - people have been having babies into their 40s for eons and it's only since 1972 that there was a sharp decline in ALL births including those to women over 40. Statistics here. There are also many risks involved with preventing pregnancy. The risks for the mother and baby are higher when you are over 40. Yes, they are. However a healthy older mother is no more likely to have problems than a healthy 20-something. Statistics show that, if looking at the worst case senario of Still-birth, the risk rises by just 3 % when you compare women in their 40s against women aged 25-29. The UK has a higher rate of still-birth than most other high income countries. Perhaps something should be done about that, including less intervention, more medical care, more training and so on. Maybe if the general still-birth rate was decreased we would see a decrease in all age-groups. Here's some interesting research into maternal age and risk factors. Interestingly they say "Children born to mothers aged 24 and younger have a higher number of diagnosed conditions, die earlier, remain smaller in size and are more likely to be obese as adults". Pregnancy and Birth can be risky, let's shout louder about the things we can change rather than having a go at a group of women who only have their age in common.

6. You should just accept what you are given in life and move on. Again, usually this comes from the mouths of those who have not experienced any trouble having their children. I often wonder if this would be the advice they would give their children if at some point in the future they are unable to provide grand-children? I doubt it some how. What gets to me is this idea that emotions are not allowed if you are struggling to conceive, or that there is some point where a woman (or couple) can just turn off the switch and 'get on' with their lives. The inertile still get periods, a monthly reminder that there is always hope. The only thing that would have made me 'get on with it' was the menopause and even then I still would have had a sadness in my life.

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