Louise Brown (aged 33) was the first baby to be born through IVF. Louise’s mother, Lesley, pioneered the practice of IVF in the UK (and around the world) and she sadly died recently after developing septicaemia whilst being treated in hospital for gallstones. Louise and her mother were very close and Louise paid tribute to her mother in a recent media interview saying “She gave me life – and every woman the chance to be a mother” and “I don’t think I could have tried for a baby for as long as she did. I’d have given up, but she never did”.
Louise, herself now a mother, endorses IVF treatment although she admits to worrying about the consequences of scientific developments in assisted conception. She recently said during a media interview “IVF has helped millions of couples have babies. Of course I’d have had it myself if I’d needed to”. She went on to say “I’m happy for same-sex couples to use IVF to have a baby, but I don’t believe couples should be able to choose the sex or anything else for their child unless it’s for medical reasons”.
In terms of surrogacy, Louise said “I don’t have strong feelings about surrogacy – if it’s used properly it can help women who can’t carry a child. Her biggest concern, however, centres on the rising numbers of older women seeking assisted conception to become mothers. More and more women are turning to IVF and surrogacy to have a much wanted child when their attempts to conceive naturally prove unsuccessful, often later in life after they have established their financial positions, personal lives and careers. IVF can be very gruelling and surrogacy is not for the faint-hearted given the UK legal restrictions and the complex legal and logistical issues associated with international surrogacy arrangements. Louise acknowledges this growing trend but said “Children need their parents to be there, so I believe in having children young, to see as much of their lives as possible” and “I can understand why some older women might be desperate for a family if they haven’t had one, but I’d be worried about women in their fifties having a baby just because they can”.
The desire to have a baby can be incredibly powerful and deep seated and these feelings can drive people of all ages and walks of life to want to have a child. In the knowledge that assisted conception, IVF and surrogacy is a global reality and that scientific developments are improving pregnancy success rates all the time, increasing numbers of people are choosing to become parents later in life and build non traditional family structures (including solo parents, co-parenting and known donor arrangements). This brings with it all manner of additional challenges, both legally and practically.