Infertility Treatment Neglected by Rise of IVF
Comment from Lord Winston during Fertility Week (28 October – 3 November 2019)
Professor Robert Winston, Chairman of the Genesis Research Trust, has warned doctors are failing to diagnose the real causes of infertility and using IVF as a ‘blanket treatment’.
Lord Winston was instrumental in pioneering IVF treatment but says In Vitro Fertilisation is now being used as ‘bad medicine’ fuelled by the commercial market for IVF, which costs around £5,000 per cycle or more.
Professor Winston said: “Currently what often we have is a series of IVF programmes dotted around the country which sometimes use a formulaic approach to treat infertility without really understanding the basic cause. Infertility is really just a symptom. It’s not a disease, it’s an underlying symptom of something wrong.”
He added: “IVF has unfortunately become a blanket treatment in most countries. Treatment without a diagnosis in any field is bad medicine.”
Professor Winston said infertility was not ‘seen as a serious condition’: “The consequence is that more and more people are thrust into the private sector, where they get complex medicine which actually may not really suit the underlying condition of their infertility.”
Genesis Research Trust (GRT) is the only medical charity consistently at the heart of leading-edge research into why things can go wrong with conception, pregnancy and birth. It delivers evidence-based results for medical treatments and outcomes of global significance.
Professor Robert Winston, remarks: “At Genesis we’ve probably pioneered more research into infertility than most other organisations in Europe, including IVF. But we recognise that there are many other treatments.”
Researchers at the Trust have identified three areas of infertility in need of research to transform fertility treatment: damaged or blocked Fallopian tubes; hormonal treatments for ovarian dysfunction; and better understanding of how sperm is produced in the testis. These are ‘increasingly neglected’ because of the burgeoning commercial market in IVF.
Professor Winston said: “It’s worth bearing in mind that if you take all women in the UK who are undergoing in vitro fertilisation each started cycle of treatment results in less than 25% of cycles actually resulting in a healthy baby. This is not substantially different to how it is in Australia where it’s about 22% or in the US. The real truth is not always palatable.”
Researchers are also keen to surmount the common diagnosis of “unexplained infertility".
The Genesis Research Trust is advocating for research to help the 1 in 5 infertile couples diagnosed with "unexplained infertility”. This is not a diagnosis, it’s a failure of diagnosis. Often the reason can be found with better examination of the couple and improved tests.
He said: “It’s time to take childlessness seriously, medical research funding is desperately needed to improve the outcome.”