The Commercialization of IVF


I have known this clinic for years and their specialty has always been women and children. Even when they changed location, they had a new signpost made especially for their target audience. My husband’s health insurance had enabled us to use their services, when our first set of twins came prematurely and they were wonderful, even after the kids left the hospital.

However, I recently passed by their new location and I noticed that IVF services had been added to their advertisement board. I nearly stopped and walked into the clinic to ask when they started this service, and what their stats were. But I caught myself in time and kept on walking to where I was going.

That got me thinking, and searching, and soon I realized that there were so many clinics around me, even those with a dodgy reputation, all offering IVF services. You open a web page and all those cookies that have been trailing your online presence start to flash adverts of IVF at half price, two cycles for the price of one, guaranteed money back in case of failed cycle. It is really tiring, and I’m not even cycling. Just imagine, if I were, my anxiety level would probably have skyrocketed.

The commercialization of IVF and other assisted reproductive services is real. It is like the newest product on the medical market right now in terms of reproduction. If my research is to be believed, most couples just want to go ahead and try IVF, without recourse to other procedures that are less invasive, less expensive, and which might actually work. Even some doctors have been known to railroad their patients straight to IVF, just so they can get the big bucks that come with the procedure.

I guess the lower probability of the other procedures working is what makes most couples to go straight for IVF, especially if they have been trying for a while, and also if they no longer have age on their side.

While I’m not cycling, Mary on the other hand is, or rather used to be, on what I like to call it, the fertility treadmill. In fact, she and her husband recently just gave up on any more assisted fertility treatments, and decided to focus their attention on their daughter. It was a hard choice to make, but they had technically reached ground zero. It was all over…every odd was now stacked against them. The joy of their lives ebbed away in their quest to have another child, and a sibling for their daughter. Now, they have decided to wait, and it if it does not happen, then that’s fine.

How did Mary and her husband arrive at this place of conceding defeat, you may ask? Well, they had wiped out their savings, sold two of their landed properties, and leased one for ten years, all to fund their fertility treatment endeavors. In the process, they have suffered several miscarriage and 13 failed IVF cycles. You see, it was really time to concede defeat and let God make them beautiful in His own time.

They had no issue with conceiving the first time around; their daughter was born not quite a year into their marriage. After four years, and with no other pregnancies occurring, they turned to IVF, and that was when their medical sojourn started; in Nigeria and even overseas. But none of the procedures ever resulted in a baby.

Mary had her ears to the ground regarding fertility clinics anywhere in the world, she did not mind the travel, and her daughter got left behind often to stay with her grandparents while she went in search of the latest clinic with the best stats that she had found.

If she so much as saw IVF somewhere, you could bet Mary would check it out. For her 13 failed IVF cycles, she used 6 clinics; she had two in some clinics, three cycles in another; one of those three cycles offer for the price of two promos, and just one cycle in some clinic, where she related well with neither the doctors nor the nursing staff.

The main challenge was her age. Mary started trying for the second baby when she was 34 years old, and got on the fertility treatment treadmill when she was 38. You would wonder why the long wait. Their doctor kept reassuring them that all was well, and it was expected that as an older mom, conception might take some time.

In the end, her ovarian reserve was very poor and the eggs that could be harvested were not of the best quality. “I just wasn’t producing a lot of eggs and we had had to wait for a couple of months while my body recovered from the effects of the drugs and then have another crack at it. Unfortunately, the older you get, the less time you have to wait.”

“In the past few years as my fertility was gradually waning, if I could have had more opportunities to try again, at lower cost I would have kept going for another year. People need to be given a choice if there’s a cheaper alternative.”

She said she would have jumped at the chance to access a cheaper alternative, but there were none. The experience at the clinic with the lowest cost she could find was not a good one, ranging from lackadaisical attitude towards hygiene to focus on getting new IVF patients, which totally put her off the clinic. She might as well spend good money elsewhere, if there was more attention to detail, as well as discreetness, which was very important to her. That experience informed her choice to cycle abroad; which unfortunately also failed.

While Mary and her husband, both of whom have good sources of income, which made the choice to opt for IVF an easier one, she still regrets not pursuing other options when she could have. But would having more clinics attaching the IVF label to their signpost not increase the number of clinics selling false hope to couples dealing with infertility? Because in the end, there are no guarantees, even with IVF. No, doctor, not even the pioneers of the IVF technology would say IVF comes with the guarantee of carrying a baby home from the hospital.

In fact, Bioethicist and Monash University associate Professor Robert Sparrow acknowledged the fact that, “IVF doesn’t always work. It’s often a very psychologically gruelling experience for lots of couples, instead of perhaps coming to terms with the fact that their lives aren’t going to have children in them, or at least not their own children, they spend years in and out of hospitals having lots of tests and experiencing lots of stress and anxiety and then they still come out childless, so being very honest about what the technology can and can’t achieve is terribly important when it comes to the ethics of business in this area.” True, but not what most couples on the journey want to hear.

In the end, it’s all a gamble, with couples embarking on the process hopeful that they will be successful. But before resorting to IVF, it is best for such couples to have explored all the less grueling, and often cheaper, alternatives…because you never really know.

Better to have the odds in one’s favour, especially if such services are within one’s economic reach.

Godspeed and direction on this TTC journey!




Photo credits:






  1. What are the less expensive and less invasive means? I have been trying for a year plus ,done some scans and tests. Hubby has been placed on drugs since March, yet nothing.

    • Hi Ada. Did your scans and tests show everything was okay. Is yours a case of male factor infertility? With male factor, IVF is often the most advisable options. Other options like clomid, injectables and IUI might not necessarily work if it’s purely male factor.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here