Fertile heterosexual couples who have frequent intercourse and use no contraception have 85% chances of conceiving within 1 year. About one is six American couple, however, are unable to conceive. Infertility can be caused by a number of factors. Recently, there is evident enough that fertility is rapidly declining due to pollutants in the water, meat, vegetables, breast milk and uterine environment. Infertility can sometimes be corrected by hormone therapy or surgery, but when it fails, parenthood may still be possible through other reproductive technologies discussed below.
Artificial Insemination – This happens when only the male is infertile. A physician introduces donor semen into or near the cervix. Most women use sperm from anonymous donors but are able to select from a catalog that specifies the donors’ physical and intellectual traits. A man with a low sperm count can donate semen at intervals over a course of several weeks and have it pooled, concentrated and used to artificially inseminate his partner. Men planning vasectomy sometime donate sperm for storage as change in family planning. Some cases of infertility are due to sperm destruction by the woman’s immune system. These can sometimes be resolved by sperm washing. This is a technique in which the sperms are collected, washed to remove antigenic proteins from their surfaces, and then introduced by artificial insemination.
Oocyte Donation – This is similar to sperm donation only that this time fresh oocytes are obtained from one woman, fertilized and transplanted to the uterus of another. A woman may choose this procedure for various reasons; being past menopause, having her ovaries removed or having a hereditary disorder she does not want to pass to her children.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – In some women, the uterus is normal but the uterine tubes are scarred by pelvic inflammatory disease or other causes. The term in vitro fertilization refers t the fact that fertilization occurs in laboratory glassware; children conceived by IVF are often misleadingly called test tube babies.
Surrogate Mothers –IVF is an option only for women who have a functional uterus. A woman who is not able to maintain a pregnancy may contract a surrogate mother who provides a uterus for hire. Some surrogate mothers are both genetic and gestational mothers, while others are just gestational. In the former case, the surrogate is artificially inseminated by a man’s sperm and agrees to give the baby to the man and his partner at birth. In the latter case, oocytes are collected from one woman’s ovaries, fertilized in vitro and the pre-embryos are placed in the surrogates’ uterus. These are typical cases in which a woman has functional ovaries but no functional uterus.
Embryo Adoption – In this case a woman has malfunctioning ovaries but a normal uterus. Man’s sperms are used to artificially inseminate another woman. A few days later, the pre-embryo is flushed from the donors’ uterus before it implants and is transferred to the uterus of the woman who wishes to have a baby. Conclusively, just like any other advances in medicine, reproductive technology has created its own ethical and legal dilemmas. If humans are to gain from these developments of science then we must ensure that knowledge is applied in an ethical and humane manner.