In vitro fertilization (or IVF) has drawn considerable attention recently thanks to Nadya Suleman, the controversial California woman who gave birth to octuplets conceived using IVF technology. She already had six children, also conceived through IVF, and she's come under fire for having so many kids as a single, unemployed mom who lives with her own mother. Many have wondered if she's being selfish. And now she's started a Web site seeking online donations for her brood.
The doctors who treated her have sparked ethical debate, too.
With those concerns in mind -- but also those of trying to conceive moms in general, because I know several who have turned to IVF -- I spoke to Dr. Shari Brasner, a Manhattan-based OB/GYN, fertility expert, and author of Advice from a Pregnant Obstetrician.
Here's what she had to say about IVF and the Suleman controversy.
The recent octuplet birth has put a spotlight on IVF and its potential consequences -- but for some trying to conceive women, it's something they may really have to consider at some point. What do women need to know about IVF and the possibility of conceiving multiples?
I think what women need to know about IVF is what it actually entails. Medications are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce more than their usual 'one-per-cycle'. The eggs are retrieved in a minor surgical procedure and are then fertilized by sperm. Any resulting embryos are then grown under careful scrutiny and decisions are made about how many and which ones to transfer into the uterus. Remaining embryos are often frozen.
Are couples/women too quick to jump to IVF these days?
Because success rates for IVF have been climbing and because it offers the best chance of success for women over 40, IVF is often recommended early or earlier in the process than years ago. Each decision should be made by women/couples under the supervision of a specialist.
What's your take on the octuplet birth and who, if anyone, is at "fault?"
I think the "system" failed in the recent octuplet birth. The goal too often is a positive pregnancy test rather than focusing on achieving a low risk pregnancy.
What are some natural, less invasive options for fertility treatments? And do these come with less risk for multiples?
There are a number of natural options available to boost fertility, including simple things like cutting caffeine and alcohol out of your diet and keeping a “conception calendar” so you know when you are ovulating.
One option I often prescribe my patients is the Conception Kit ($300, a prescription is necessary, but may be obtained online). It’s an at-home kit that is proven to be as effective as IUI and I like it because it’s all natural, doesn’t involve any drugs or surgery, and it doesn’t come with the increased risk of multiples.
To get more info on IVF and TTC from moms who are experiencing it, check out one of these groups (note that the first two are private):
If you're undergoing fertility treatments, are you concerned about the possibility of conceiving multiples? And what do you think about Nadya Suleman having 14 kids through IVF? Her choice, or reckless decision making?