Hundreds of Australians die every year because of overcrowded hospitals. Children with disabilities struggle to get the help and equipment they need. Public schools are under-resourced. We don’t have a magic uber-highway to zip us around the country at the speed of sound.
And yet we’re spending taxpayer’s cash on IVF for women in their 50s. Riddle me that.
The news that a 60-year-old gave birth is the sort of thing that sees some people shudder while others are all high-fives and ‘you go girlfriend’ excited.
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Overnight news broke Swedish doctors have made a startling breakthrough in fertility treatment, by transplanting the functioning wombs of two women into their own adult daughters.
They’ll now give the new uteruses a year to settle in before trying for pregnancies with IVF. It’s an incredible medical development, that will give some infertile women hope they will one day become biological mothers.
The clinical director of women’s health at Westmead Hospital in Sydney Dr Andrew Pesce told ABC radio this morning: “It’s obviously emotionally a much more powerful and strong bond and experience if the woman carries the baby herself. I think it’s not possible to anticipate yet that such women could give birth naturally.”
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The New York Times ran an article recently with the rather fascinating headline: “Eager for Grandchildren, and Wanting Daughters’ Eggs in Freezer”.
The front-page story was about the growing phenomenon of American parents helping their single daughters to freeze their eggs for later use – at a cost of anywhere between $A 7,500 and $17,000. Why? Well, as 61-year-old Candice Kramer put it: “By the time Allison was 35, I felt the clock was tick-tick-ticking. I viewed it as opening up an opportunity for her.”
Call it a grandchild insurance policy. With women increasingly deferring babies until later in life, America’s would-be grandparents are investing in hope.
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According to the latest app on my iPhone I have seven years, six months, 19 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes and 31 seconds left to have any more babies. Wait, 21 seconds. No, 5 seconds. Aghhhhhh.
Count down clocks are by definition a torment. According to deathclock.com I’m set to expire on Anzac Day in 2077, which will make me 101. Only time will tell if that is good news or bad news.
Yes these things are arbitrary, based on sweeping generalisations, and fail to take myriad factors into account. But some times sweeping generalisations are made for a reason.
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A couple of years back I met a woman who had had quadruplets through an IVF program 24 years ago. I was delighted to find that all four babies were now healthy young people but amazed to find out that I had actually conducted the embryo transfer and had implanted all four embryos inside her womb.
IVF has certainly changed over the past 30 years in that things that were acceptable then are no longer practiced today – like implanting multiple embryos.
The most significant change over the past 30 years has been the improvement in IVF success rates; the clinic at which I work rarely implants more than one embryo and has a multiple pregnancy rate below 4 per cent, as compared to 40 per cent 25 years ago
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Fertility is a precious commodity for the modern woman. Greater opportunities, education and choice, along with the difficulties of finding the right partner can make it easy to delay falling pregnant. Being able to stow eggs away for the “right time” is an alluring prospect.
In this context, a recent discovery by Dr Jonathan Tilly of Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital offers massive temptation. The American scientist has found that ovaries of young women harbour very rare stem cells capable of producing new eggs.
He made the discovery after an initial study found that stem cells in the ovaries of adult mice could give rise to viable eggs. This means that although women are born with a finite number of eggs, they now have more chances to fall pregnant later in life. But it’s also a risk of epic proportions.
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There is no ‘right’ to have a child. This seems a callous thing to say, but wrapping any conversation about children up in cuddly pink fleece-lined jumpsuits doesn’t help what has to be a serious policy debate.
While it must be devastating for couples who, for whatever reason, are unable to conceive, there are limits to society’s obligations to help them. Like most controversial health decisions, this is a tale of clashing rights and finite resources.
Last year the Federal Government made changes to the Medicare Safety Net, effectively capping the amount they would pay out for assisted reproductive treatments.
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Somewhere yesterday in rural India, the world’s 7 billionth person was born. This event, which should be a cause for celebration, will undoubtedly provoke the population prophets of doom to predict impending catastrophe.
Last night, Sydney was lucky enough to host the patriarch of the prophets, Professor Paul Ehrlich, who gave an address at UNSW on ‘Population, Environment, and the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere’.
Professor Ehrlich made his name at a time of population hysteria, the age of Logan’s Run, the pill and the birth of China’s one-child policy. He is most famous for his 1968 work, The Population Bomb, which predicted immense social upheaval, massive resource shortages and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people from starvation due to a “population explosion”.
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Pregnancy is a lovely thing. Lovely, obviously, because it usually produces a baby, but also because it keeps you warm, excuses cake consumption and ensures you score a seat on the bus.
It also makes everyone smile and ask pleasant questions, which is doubly nice when you’ve had your head down the loo half the morning.
But, for some, the sight of an expectant mum is torture. They may enthuse with the rest of us, but behind the plastered smile, they’re splintering into a million unspilt tears. Because there’s no keener reminder of what you don’t have than someone else’s swollen belly.
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Here’s a sobering little fact; Gen X women face a fertility crisis greater than any generation before them.
After receiving terrible advice from scores of feminists as well as their baby boomer mums, many thought it wise to delay motherhood for the sake of their careers.
Unfortunately your biological clock doesn’t care about your career, what car you drive or what your investment portfolio looks like.
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Not everyone wants to have children – in fact according to some recent research conducted by Schering Plough, about 24% of women surveyed said they don’t want to have children.
For the 76% who do, this survey highlighted the barriers faced by women in 2009 that affect their decisions about children.
In this group, almost two thirds (62%) of Gen Y women, those aged 18 – 29, say they will delay having kids now as they are concerned about the cost.
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