In a recently held beauty pageant, once contestant was asked this question: “What is the essence of being a woman?” Confidently, the attractive young lady replied, “The very essence of a woman is to bear a child.”
At first, one would think that there is merit to this short but sure answer. However, one should still ask: What if a woman cannot conceive a child? What if she choose to be child-less? Does being child-less disqualify a person from becoming a full-fledged woman?
These questions can be answered from different perspectives. However, any discussion on this subject must not be made without taking into consideration the important aspect of infertility — an issue that is already a major concern for women all over the world.
Female infertility is defined as a woman’s biological inability to conceive a child or the inability to carry a pregnancy to full-term. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, infertility affects at least 6.1 million American women and their partners, or about 10% of the reproductive age population.
The subject of infertility has always been considered a “woman’s problem.” However, it is time to debunk that myth since not all pregnancy problems should be associated to women. Experts say that 80% of cases that were diagnosed as infertility are due to male problems. Infertility may be due to a single cause in either a woman or her male partner, or a combination of factors that may prevent a pregnancy from occurring or continuing to full-term.
According to the National Women’s Health Resource Center (NWHRC), most women in their late 30s are 30% less fertile than they were in their early 20s. About 20 percent of infertility cases are the result of fallopian tube disease. It also added that between 30 and 40 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile. In 85 to 90 percent of all cases, infertility is treated with either medication or surgery. However, recent improvements and innovations in medications such as microsurgery and assisted reproductive technologies (ART) can now make pregnancy possible. An example of assisted reproductive technology is called In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), a procedure that has made possible the delivery of more than 45, 000 babies, as of the latest count.
In Vitro Fertilization is a fertility procedure that was first successfully conducted by Dr. Robert Edwards, an embryologist; and Dr. Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist. The first-ever “test tube” baby named Louise Brown was born in England on July 25, 1978. Since then, the technology has been further advanced and developed by physicians and embryologists.
In Vitro Fertilization technique is an alternative used for women who have blocked fallopian tubes. In Vitro is actually a Latin phrase that means, “in a glass.” As such, this procedure involves the fertilization of an egg cell with a sperm cell outside the female human body. Medications are given to a woman to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. After extracting the woman’s eggs cells, the fertilization is manually done using a “culture dish” like a test tube, beaker, or petri dish. The dish is then placed in an incubator. Two to three days later, three to five embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus. Pregnancy can be confirmed using blood tests about 13 days after egg aspiration. It can also be confirmed by ultrasound 30 to 40 days after aspiration. The entire procedure is done approximately for three weeks.
As with most medical procedures, there are some potential risks in the IVF procedure. The main risk of IVF is the possibility of multiple births which come as a result transferring multiple embryos during the actual IVF procedure.
The issue of male and female infertility is of utmost importance to thousands if not millions of couples around the world. Pregnancy and childbirth are considered as the ultimate experience for couples who dream of having their own family. With the advancements in medical technology and growing popularity of IVF as a fertility method, the question about the “essence of womanhood” need not be a hindrance for women to realize their true worth.