Are IVF pregnancies more ‘precious’?


Two pregnant women

Do women with IVF pregnancies need special attention?

  • Women who have gone through fertility treatment often say it had a huge emotional and psychological impact on them and their partners.

In many cases, couples have spent years trying to conceive before going through several cycles of IVF, which can be expensive and traumatic, with no guarantee of success.

So are pregnancies achieved through assisted fertility treatments viewed as inherently more precious to everyone involved?

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“Until you go home with your baby in your arms, that anxiety is always there.”

Susan SeenanInfertility Network UK

A study from Plymouth University published last month suggests they are. Dr Yaniv Hanoch asked 160 Israeli obstetricians and gynaecologists whether they would recommend a test for a serious medical condition during pregnancy.

He found that doctors were three times more likely to recommend the test, which carried a small risk, for a natural pregnancy than for an IVF pregnancy.

Dr Hanoch, associate professor in psychology, said: “When considering a procedure that may endanger a pregnancy, the value ascribed to loss of that pregnancy may seem greater if the pregnancy was achieved by tremendous effort.”

In 2005, Minkoff and Berkowitz published a study in the American journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology entitled ‘The Myth of the Precious Baby’.

It said that because increasing numbers of pregnant women were aged over 40 and more were pregnant thanks to assisted reproductive technologies, this had resulted in more ceasarean deliveries, reinforcing the idea among obstetricians that they were dealing with ‘precious babies’.

Ante-natal check up
IVF women often want reassurance on aches and pains during pregnancy

On the ground, there is less evidence of sensitivity and understanding from health professionals towards women with IVF pregnancies.

Susan Seenan, from the Infertility Network UK, says the system lets these women down.

“When these women finally go to their GP and say they are pregnant, they are referred for ante-natal care and that’s it.

“Even when they make it known they have had IVF, they are seen as just another pregnant lady.”

She says sometimes even when women reveal they have suffered miscarriages or have had fertility issues, there is a lack of sympathy.

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Some women like to feel they have access to extra information as required, even if it’s just a phone number to speak to a midwife about any aches or pains.”

Mr Tim ChildOxford Fertility Unit

She says fertility treatment is widely recognised to be a physically, psychologically and financially demanding process – and it can leave women feeling they have been on an ’emotional rollercoaster’.

“A lot of women feel very anxious, because they have been through so much, and many women really do worry that everything will be OK.

“Until you go home with your baby in your arms, that anxiety is always there. People need to understand why they are feeling vulnerable and anxious.

“If they have been through the IVF system they will have had a lot of attention, appointments, blood tests and scans – and they expect that attention to continue.”

Instead, many women are left feeling isolated when they are most in need of reassurance.

Seenan says this could be remedied by providing support in the form of a phoneline to call in times of anxiety or information leaflets to read.

Research does seem to confirm higher levels of anxiety in women with IVF pregnancies, says Julie Jomeen, professor of midwifery at Hull University, who adds that their feelings can mean they want a more medicalised approach to their pregnancy.

Older mums-to-be may request a caesarean section delivery, believing that it is safer, for example.

An obstetrician discussing options with a pregnant womanSome women choose not reveal they had fertility treatment

Or a woman who is scared of losing her baby throughout pregnancy, may need reassurance that normal symptoms of pregnancy, such as backache, are not something more serious.

Mr Tim Child, medical director at the Oxford Fertility Unit at the University of Oxford, acknowledges that women who have conceived naturally can have anxieties too, but he says it would be understandable if IVF women felt they needed more support.

“Some women like to feel they have access to extra information as required, even if it’s just a phone number to speak to a midwife about any aches or pains.”

He says not all women want to disclose that they have been through IVF because there is still some stigma attached to it. Others may want to be treated the same as every other woman, so their IVF history may not always appear on their personal notes.

Medically, there are slightly higher risks of complications in IVF pregnancies, particularly if the woman is older, has underlying health problems or is having twins, so Mr Child says consultants should be vigilant.

A study is currently underway at Oxford into how midwives care for women have had fertility treatment.

When women with IVF pregnancies are open about their anxieties, what they are looking for is not special treatment in the belief that their baby is more precious than anyone else’s, but reassurance and support during the final stages of a long and emotional journey.

Even when the baby is born, it doesn’t end, Susan Seenan says.

“Because the baby has been wanted for so along, you put pressure on yourself to be a perfect parent. So you’re not allowed to complain when it cries at night or doesn’t feed well. But in the end, we are just parents like anyone else.”

Cheques to be paid in via smartphone


woman photographs cheque
Account holders in the US can already pay in cheques via mobile phones
Plans have been announced to allow bank customers to pay cheques into their account by taking photos on their smartphones.

Rather than go to the bank in person, customers will be able to photograph the cheque, and send it electronically.

The government is to launch a consultation on the idea, with a view to making the necessary legal changes.

The technology will also allow cheques to be cleared in two days, rather than the six it takes at the moment.

Banks say the new transfer method will be more convenient, and more secure.

“Moving into a virtual world will actually create a more secure customer experience than the paper experience today,” said Antony Jenkins, the chief executive of Barclays.

Such photos would not be stored on the phone itself, so there should be no security risk if a phone was stolen.

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antony jenkins

I think people are going into branches less and less, particularly as a result of mobile banking”

Antony JenkinsChief executive, Barclays

Similar technology was introduced in the United States nine years ago, following the attack on the World Trade Centre.

A new law known as Check 21 was passed, to enable banks to process cheques electronically, rather than having to transport paper versions across the country.

Cheques

The government believes a change in the law in the UK would also promote the continuing use of cheques.

The UK Payments Council was originally planning to abolish all cheque payments by 2018, but was forced to change its mind after public opposition.

“We want to see more innovation so that customers see the benefits of new technologies,” said Sajid Javid, the financial secretary to the Treasury.

“We want cheques to have a crucial role in the ongoing success of the UK,” he added.

In 2012, 10% of all payments by individuals were made by cheque, and 25% of payments by businesses.

The industry says most younger account-holders already use electronic systems of payment, and rarely use cheques.

However all customers will still be able to pay in cheques by posting them to their bank, or by visiting their bank directly.

phone and cheque
Greater use of banking technology is hastening branch closures

Branch closures

Barclays is planning to launch a pilot programme for paying in cheques via phone from April 2014.

It hopes to launch a service for all its customers later in the year.

But the new technology is likely to raise further questions about the size of the branch network, as customers turn to banking via PCs and mobiles.

Last month Barclays announced 1700 further job losses in its High Street branches, as a direct result of mobile technology.

In the year to July 2013 it closed 37 branches, and it has hinted at more closures to come.

“I think people are going into branches less and less, particularly as a result of mobile banking, and that’s going to accelerate the process,” Antony Jenkins told the BBC.

The bank is in the process of moving eight of its branches into stores operated by Asda.

A spokesman said customers would always be able to pay their cheques in at a branch if they wanted to.

Ill Italian denounces ‘death wishes’


Nude mice in research lab

Several million animal experiments are carried out each year

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  • An Italian student suffering from a rare disease has denounced death threats she received after defending medical experiments on animals.

Caterina Simonsen said more than 30 “death wishes” and 500 abusive messages were sent to on her Facebook page.

The messages came after she uploaded a photo of herself with a message: “I am 25 thanks to genuine research that includes experiments on animals.”

In response to the abuse, she has posted videos of her condition online.

Caterina Simonsen, 25, lives in Padua and studies veterinary medicine at Bologna University.

She says she suffers from four rare genetic disorders and cannot breathe unaided.

“Without research, I would have been dead at nine,” she said in her initial message on 21 December. “You have gifted me a future.”

But a torrent of comments followed – some suggesting the world would be better off with her dead.

She has forwarded the details to the Italian authorities.

Animal research has always been controversial.

Many people strongly oppose the use of any animals in experiments arguing it is cruel and unethical.

Please share your views on experiments on animals.

Neanderthals Passed Along Diabetes Risk Gene.


Kermanshah Pal Museum-Neanderthal

Scientists have determined that a variation of a gene that increases the risk of a person developing type 2 diabetes by 25 percent was likely introduced into human populations by Neanderthals more than 60,000 years ago. Half of people with a recent Native American lineage, including Latin Americans, have the gene, SLC16A11, as do 20 percent of East Asians. The newly seqeuenced, high quality Neanderthal genome, taken from a female toe found in Siberia‘s Denisova Cave, also included the variant, and researchers say that analysis suggests that Neanderthals introduced it into the human genome when they intermixed with modern humans, after the latter left Africa 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. According to the findings from the completed Neanderthal genome, roughly two percent of the genomes of today’s non-African humans are comprised of Neanderthal DNA.