Thursday, January 18, 2018


Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.

2 Thessalonians 2:3

By Mohamed Menabawey | Mail Online | Jun. 8, 2010

The patient - a well-dressed woman in her early 30s - seemed delighted to find out that at last, and against all the odds, she was to be a mother.

Clutching her husband's hand, they appeared to everyone in my colleague's practice to be as overjoyed as any other would-be parents. In the lottery that is IVF - for, however hard the doctors work, it works in only 50 per cent of cases - they truly were extremely lucky.

In cases like hers, the doctors who treated her feel as much joy as the woman in question. So it's not hard to imagine the devastation my colleague felt when he found out by chance a few months later, when compiling the data of how many pregnancies had gone on to be live babies, that the couple hadn't gone through with the pregnancy after all.


Sad statistic: An average of 80 abortions a year are carried out
on women who conceived through IVF - many do it for social rather than
medical reasons

Sad statistic: An average of 80 abortions a year are carried out on women who conceived through IVF - many do it for social rather than medical reasons

Instead, for some inexplicable reason, the would-be mother had gone on to abort her perfectly healthy embryo. Frustratingly, as is so often the case, the doctor never found out the exact details of her abortion.

But the one-word reason given on their forms was 'social' rather than medical. And from the little information available in the records, it seemed she and her husband had separated.

A one-off event? Shockingly, no. As Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority statistics revealed this week, an average of 80 abortions are carried out in England and Wales every year on IVF babies.

And while some might be carried out on health grounds (for example, a severe abnormality being discovered in the baby), there is no getting away from the unpalatable truth: a number of these abortions are carried out for social reasons.

There is no escaping the facts. They do happen and many long-serving consultants will, unfortunately, be able to recall such a case. For some reason, after what will usually be months, if not years, of sometimes gruelling treatment to conceive a child, the newly pregnant woman decides she does not want her baby after all.

'To me, any abortion following the creation of life by IVF is a tragedy if there is no overriding medical reason'


Unbeknown to us, she will book into an abortion clinic - because IVF clinics do not do terminations - and she will choose to end this life she took so much trouble, and in many cases spent so much money, to create. The IVF clinic doctors will often not know.

Once a pregnancy is confirmed, the woman will be cared for by her usual NHS trust or local midwife - but the news of the abortion will occasionally filter back to us one way or another.

When it does, it is utterly devastating for all concerned. After all, getting an infertile couple pregnant is extremely difficult, pulling on every medical and emotional resource we have.

What has shocked IVF consultants most, however, is not that these abortions do happen, but that they appear to happen nearly a hundred times a year. Let me say here that I do not agree with terminations for social reasons.

To me, any abortion following the creation of life by IVF is a tragedy if there is no overriding medical reason. 

Since I read the research, I have been talking to many of my fellow consultants. Some of them told me they had experienced situations like this, but assumed in each case that it was pretty much a one-off.

To find out 80 such abortions were carried out in this way over the past year is a shock to all of us. But the question that perturbs me and the rest of my colleagues most is: why do these women do it?

After all, these are not 14-year-old girls who suddenly find themselves pregnant, these are adult, usually married, women who have convinced a team of psychologists and doctors that they want a baby so much they should have IVF.

Unfortunately - and it is here I feel more studies are urgently required - the statistics do not reveal why women would terminate a baby; the data itself merely differentiates 'social' abortions from 'medical'.

But, from my own experience, I know that for some couples, undergoing IVF can be so stressful it spells the end of their relationship. It is an all-consuming process which often involves daily hormone injections and, depending on the reasons for infertility, surgery to retrieve eggs and sperm.

Each process in itself carries health risks. Sadly, most of us have met couples for whom it has all been too much.

The pressure they went through to conceive an IVF baby blows their relationship apart. Even expert counselling for couples undergoing IVF doesn't always prepare them for the harsh reality or the gamut of emotions they will endure during what is often an agonising experience.

'For some couples, undergoing IVF can be so stressful it spells the end of their relationship'

It's likely, therefore, that relationship break-ups are the most common reason for all these women to undergo abortions after successful IVF.

A woman might see terminating her partner's baby as revenge for his being unfaithful, for example. Or perhaps she can simply no longer face carrying his child.

Sometimes the man might have been pressured into having a baby and the reality of his pregnant partner will hit home. He might walk out and leave his partner alone, without any support and nowhere to turn. Unable to face bringing up a child alone, abortion seems the only option for her.

She might even think it is the best for the child. It seems this was the case with that married woman in her 30s: when her relationship broke down, she simply couldn't face bringing up a child as a single parent.

Personally, whatever their situations, I find it incredibly sad that even one woman would choose to abort a child she has suffered so much to conceive.

Even one IVF abortion a year is one too many. As any other IVF doctor will tell you, we do this job because we find genuine delight in helping people to become parents.

We truly believe we're creating a family, and bonds between a parent and child that will never be broken.

The days we receive those 'It's a boy!' or 'It's a girl!' cards take us through the difficult times - the times when couples who so deserve a baby and would be wonderful parents simply fail to conceive.

But the story of 80 IVF abortions a year is something entirely different. The fact that all these women have chosen to terminate babies they once so desperately wanted simply saddens me to the core. 

Mohamed Menabawey is consultant infertility specialist and medical director at The London Bridge Fertility Centre.

Theology, Ethics, & Religion | Article Views: 1771