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Undergoing in vitro fertilization in 1990

For many couples it's their worst nightmare. Years of trying and still, no baby. Adoption was once the only option. Nowadays there are fertility drugs, in vitro fertilization, and surrogate mothers. But with these modern-day solutions come new moral conundrums and questions: How far are we willing to go to fight infertility?

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In vitro fertilization is a miracle to many and a nightmare to others. CBC Radio reporter Mary O'Connell follows one woman as she undergoes treatment, including fertility drug injections and an egg retrieval. Kathy Newman is a patient in the Life Program at Toronto East General Hospital in Scarborough. Her hopes are high. What she is willing to endure is startling.

Intense emotions are stirred up by in vitro fertilization. Each day, Kathy must visit the hospital for tests and procedures, riding a cycle of hope and disappointment that she can't long escape from.
And the emotional ups and downs may not be the worst part. As Dr. Marsden Wagner of the World Health Organization explains, fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization can lead to health problems, and even death.
• Egg retrieval is the first major step in the in vitro fertilization process. Fertility drugs, used to control the ovaries, are an important component. Doctors first give a woman a drug to reduce or stop the hormones that control the development of eggs in the ovaries. For the next ten days, they inject her with drugs that cause the development of multiple eggs. Another hormone is taken to help the eggs mature. About 36 hours after that injection, the eggs are retrieved.

• Egg retrieval takes 15 to 30 minutes. The amount of anesthetic given depends on the clinic.
• Dangers from egg retrieval include surgical damage, anesthetic complications, and discomfort in the ovaries.
• Possible dangers from fertility drug injections include exaggerated PMS-type symptoms such as bloating and mood swings; hallucinations; hair loss; ovarian cysts; ovarian cancer; early menopause; multiple births; tubal pregnancies; and hyperstimulation of the ovaries.

• When hyperstimulation of the ovaries occurs, it usually begins a few days after egg retrieval. A change in the hormonal activity of the follicles is the cause. Ovarian cells are over-stimulated, becoming more permeable to liquid. This can lead to fluid collection in the abdominal cavity and around the heart, as well as blood clots, kidney damage, and ovarian twisting, which requires surgery.
• In rare cases, hyperstimulation can lead to death.
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: March 18, 1990
Guest(s): Kathy Newman, Dr. Christine Overall, Dr. Perry Phillips, Dr. Marsden Wagner
Reporter: Mary O'Connell
Duration: 8:09

Last updated: February 9, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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