Choosing In Vitro

Today, many doctors choose to only implant two embryos at a time into the uterus during In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). The rest of the embryos are frozen and stored for possible future use. When these frozen embryos are thawed, it’s possible that up to 30 percent will not survive the process. If any of these pre-born children are lost, are their parents morally accountable for their deaths? What is the difference between losing babies that are defrosted versus losing babies that are implanted?

Some physicians argue that up to half of all conceived babies are lost, anyway, without our knowledge. Miscarriages occur in about 15 percent of recognized pregnancies and can occur in up to 40 percent of pregnancies before a woman even knows she is pregnant. These doctors then conclude that there is no more loss with IVF than with naturally conceived embryos.

Still, with IVF, parents are making a conscious decision to produce the "extra" embryos in the first place. It’s important to make a decision regarding this method of fertilisation only after careful consideration of the moral implications. Consult your spouse, pastor/priest/rabbi and ask God for wisdom.

If a couple chooses IVF they may want to consider an option usually not mentioned by physicians — only harvest and fertilise as many eggs as you intend to use for that cycle. This may require additional future procedures for the mom-to-be, as she may need to have more eggs harvested. But additional procedures may be a better option than putting a pre-born child at risk.

Another possibility includes freezing unused embryos for future implantation or to be adopted by other couples who would like to have them implanted. The risks associated with defrosting still apply.

Copyright © 2004 Focus on the Family.