Sunday, May 16, 2010
You, that is, not me. I'm way past my prime!
Sex to make babies may become redundant as IVF becomes the norm
By Daniel Martin
16th May 2010
They say thirtysomethings will increasingly rely on artificial methods of fertilisation because natural human reproduction is 'fairly inefficient'.
It means that in future, sex will be nothing more than a leisure activity - hammering a further nail into the Christian idea that the role of sex is to produce children.
Dying art: IVF could become better than sex for making babies
If the experts are right, it means the sci-fi world of books such as Brave New World, in which all children are born in 'hatcheries', could soon be a step closer to reality.
And it raises further ethical questions over whether greater use of IVF will lead to eugenics, with couples screening out characteristics they regard as undesirable.
The startling new vision of the future is the brainchild of John Yovich, a veterinary doctor from Murdoch University in Australia.
He believes IVF has the potential to ease the pressure on couples who have delayed having children to their thirties or forties to pursue a career, because in the future going for the test tube option will be much more effective than trying for a baby naturally.
Even young adults have no more than a one-in-four chance every month of reproducing through sex, and among the over 35s, this falls to one in 10. This compares to a near 100 per cent success rate which he believes will be possible with IVF within 10 years.
Dr Yovich, co-author of a new report in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine, said: 'We are not quite at that stage yet, but that is where we're heading. Natural human reproduction is at best a fairly inefficient process.
'Within the next five to 10 years, couples approaching 40 will assess the IVF industry first when they want to have a baby.'
The vet, based his hunch on the fact that in cattle, IVF works almost 100 per cent of the time. He said there was no reason that success rate could not be replicated in humans very soon.
His co-author, Australian vet Gabor Vajta, said test-tube embryo production in cattle was 100 times more efficient than natural means. He said there was no reason why IVF in humans should not become 100 times more efficient than natural sex.
At present, IVF only has a 50 per cent success rate - among the most healthy couples.
But new techniques, such as intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection - in which a single sperm is injected straight into an egg, are already improving success rates.
It could mean that, in the future, artificial human reproduction could also be 100 times more efficient than natural means of trying for a baby.
Gedis Grudzinskas, a Harley Street infertility specialist, said: 'It wouldn't surprise me if IVF does become significantly more efficient than natural reproduction, but I doubt whether you could ever completely guarantee that it would work.'
In Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel Brave New World, human reproduction has been done away with and is replaced by a hatching process, in which groups of identical children are born from surgically-removed ovaries and incubated in bottles.