Under the Microscope

by | 7 May 2017

Another week, another fertility industry scandal. Or so it seems. Of course this is not quite true, it isn’t every week but they do seem to be coming thick and fast these days. At the end of last year there was the ‘add ons’ saga – if you didn’t see the Panorama programme in which I played a small part, it’s still on catch up. And now the Daily Mail has accused certain fertility clinics of offering women cash for their eggs. It’s a complex issue and I wrote an Opinion piece on the story for the Guardian this week which has attracted lots of interesting comments.

It does feel like something’s happening though. As more and more people are leaving parenthood later – for a multitude of reasons – we’re seeing more and more people turning to IVF to facilitate their families. And with IVF decreasingly available on the NHS, there’s an increasing number of people going privately. As the industry grows, and gets more competitive and tries to find ways of bettering the success rates of a science that often doesn’t work, it’s becoming clear that discussion is urgently needed about how to protect the patients going through it. I don’t have the answers, but I will continue to ask the questions because that’s the only way things are going to change.


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  1. Jane P (UK)

    WOW – i don’t know how to sum up how i feel and what i want to say in a post! I’ll have a go:
    Thank you Jessica for; as always; a balanced point of view and getting the question out there. I underwent all of the above, I experienced donor eggs on my last cycle – which of course we bought – it was dressed up as “donor” only. Its not because it resulted in life saving surgery that I am saddened by the posts that were made in response to the article. If I were bouncing my baby on my knee (which I will never do), I would still be plain sad. The society that says “ban IVF” and it shouldn’t be funded – is the very society that shows no compassion, no empathy but revolves completely around themselves and has strong views on roads they have not travelled. I paid for 6 of my treatments – i was told I didn’t qualify for any NHS treatment. We were told on diagnosis to pre-save for 3 cycles of IVF because miscarriage rates were very high – we did pre-save, we are not high earners, I’m a secretary on a very average wage and have been since I was 16. I didn’t have one pregnancy with IVF with my own eggs. I don’t know what the answer is either but I do think it should be fair. One round funded regardless of income, seems fair to me. I am not so sure about how we run donor programmes in the UK – maybe if we openly paid for donor eggs we wouldn’t need to put women in difficult situations (who are equally desperate for a child) and we would have more donors come forward. As always the information upfront around the IVF industry is lacking and the choices I have made – although none regretted, I made based on “not the whole truth”.

    I’ve decided this is not the forum for my other views – which may be attributed to sadness and jealousy! Thank you though Jessica for the voice and struggles of infertility – particularly when it doesn’t matter what you do, motherhood never comes. I hope one day the society that I contribute to will one day reciprocate in some way – empathy and understanding all I have looked for for two decades……….. Time to give up on that too i feel.

  2. thepursuitofmotherhood

    Thanks for such a brilliant comment. I agree with everything you’ve said, although I would ideally want the NHS to fund three rounds for everyone because IVF so often doesn’t work first time. I think what you’ve said about donor eggs – and whether they should be paid for – is really interesting. I have to say I think that would be an interesting discussion to have again. And just to say all your views are always welcome on this blog! Thanks for reading and commenting. It means a lot. Jessica x

  3. Jane P (UK)

    Thanks Jessica for your words – and for somewhere to voice what I think. Some days you just don’t realize how much you need to speak about things you have nowhere else to speak about them! I surprised myself with my views around donor eggs – probably would have been completely different had I not experienced it for myself. When we joined the queue we were waiting for a “walk in donor”, someone who would have been counselled and with no emotional attachment – “go through IVF, for someone you don’t know, for no financial gain”, for the love of helping someone….. And what’s happened – the “sharing” programme, for “reduced” price IVF. There definitely needs to be more discussion about all aspects – thank you again for listening. It helps so much – even the hard to take, judgmental stuff from people who know nothing can aid finding a kind of peace. Thank you x

    • stilltryingandhoping

      Hi Jessica

      I watched the Panorama episode you were featured in. I understand what you are saying all too well! And I completely agree with your points in the article.

      My husband and I went through 5 IVF attempts(embryos from 2 cycles), which were funded by the NHS, however, all the add ons were paid by us. I’m talking extra testing that cost thousands, interlipid drips, uterine scratches, PGD tests you name it! In the end, it was a frustrating diagnosis of unexplained infertility.

      The frustrations of the NHS postcode lottery is beyond belief. It actually influenced which house we bought as our first home!

      Years later,Despite still having funding and 4 frozen embryos, we decided to stop and have gone overseas for surrogacy. I would rather that funding went to someone else, who may be able to use it and have some success! This was a very personal decision for us, but one we felt would pay off and increase our chances of having a baby, and also hoped the funding we didn’t use would help someone else. It seemed a better choice than spending more money putting myself through physical and mental torture to get nowhere. We currently have a pregnant surrogate and are thrilled!

      Most people we speak to wonder how we afford to spend thousands on IVF treatments, and then a further small fortune on surrogacy. Its all in a bid to become parents. The answer is quite simply that we don’t spend on anything that can be classed as a luxury. I mean this in a very extreme way, we have had to cut back to absolute basics for a few years. But we are fortunate to be in a position to be able to save as we are, most people would not be able to. For us, the line is drawn at spending what we can save and not getting into debt over it.

      I can understand why women may egg share if they don’t have the funds for IVF. Its appalling to think that some of these women truly do not want to have to share their eggs, but either have no choice or don’t have the support to understand how they feel about it. Desperate situations case people to do desperate things.

      S xx

      • thepursuitofmotherhood

        That’s wonderful news about your surrogate. I think it’s both brave and brilliant that you decided to pursue this option relatively early on. I say ‘relatively early on’ knowing that 5 rounds of IVF is massively gruelling but I think lots of people with ‘unexplained infertility’ don’t look at other options until they’ve totally run out of money and physical and emotional energy (myself included). Thank you so much for watching the Panorama programme, reading my Guardian article, commenting on and following my blog. Do please keep me posted on how things go. The only way things will ultimately change for patients is if more and more people talk and share and I hope we can stay in touch. Warmest wishes Jessica x

        • stilltryingandhoping

          Hi Jessica

          After 5 failed IVF attempts, we had already exhausted most tests that out clinic could do. In our case, every fertility consultant was stumped and didn’t know what else they could offer us. I still believe that if we had an IVF consultant who was very optimistic and threw lots of options at us for tests and new things they could try, I probably would have gone for it. We had a choice to either switch to a clinic such as Lister clinic or ARGC, or go with surrogacy. Surrogacy seemed the safest bet, and my body had taken such a battering.

          I’m blogging about our surrogacy journey(I can share a link if you want), really to spread awareness of other avenues people have to becoming parents. Surrogacy and fertility overall is not talked about enough. And there’s a stigma associated with it in some cultures (certainly in my culture as I’m British Asian). Opening up and sharing these experiences helps others learn how these things can be achieved, and creates support networks.

          Thank you for continuing to spread awareness about the challenges of infertility in the UK 🙂

          S xx

  4. thepursuitofmotherhood

    I just think your viewpoint is so valid and so important and am really grateful to you for sharing it. It makes me feel more informed and less alone myself and I hope this will remain a place where you can voice what you think and feel always. Happy Wednesday xxx

  5. thepursuitofmotherhood

    StillTryingAndHoping – apologies I don’t think I replied to your last comment and I know it was weeks ago but it’s been on my mind – I’d love to know the link to your blog about your surrogacy journey and my thanks go out to you too for sharing your journey. Jessica x