According to an article in the Washington Post, the multibillion-dollar fertility industry is booming, and experimenting with business models that are changing the American family in new and unpredictable ways. Would-be parents seeking donor eggs and sperm can pick and choose from long checklists of physical and intellectual characteristics. Clinics now offer volume discounts, package deals and 100 percent guarantees for babymaking that are raising complicated ethical and legal questions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 percent of American women 15 to 55 — 7.3 million — have used some sort of fertility service; the use of assisted reproductive technologies has doubled in the past decade. In 2015, these procedures resulted in nearly 73,000 babies — 1.6 percent of all U.S. births. The rate is even higher in some countries, including Japan (5 percent) and Denmark (10 percent).
Most couples use their own eggs and sperm, turning to doctors to facilitate pregnancy through techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). But the use of donor gametes is on the rise. The donor-egg industry, in particular, has taken off in the past decade with the development of a safe and reliable egg-freezing process. The number of attempted pregnancies with donor eggs has soared from 1,800 in 1992 to almost 21,200 in 2015.
As I see it the most important reason for this “boom” is an increase in the need for these services created by societal trends. Most people are delaying childbearing, many until they are no longer in the prime of their reproductive lives and are requiring an assist from technology such as egg donation. The increase in egg donation cycles speaks to this trend. A second, related issue, is that when you start your reproductive life later in life and plan to have fewer children and the technology exists to increase the chance that your offspring will be healthier, you are more likely to take advantage of the options available such as PGS and PGD.
There are some schemes that unscrupulous practitioners are offering such as 100% guarantees, but the vast majority of IVF centers in the U.S. are offering plans designed to give their patients the best chance of success at the lowest price. A good and ethical example of this is the Attain family of plans offered by Reproductive Partners and many other centers throughout the country. At RPMG we have recently launched Single Transfer, Healthier Baby, Safer Pregnancy, an optimized protocol of tests and procedures designed to maximize your chance of a healthy single live birth in the fewest number of cycles which s what really can make IVF most economical.