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Belgian Doctors Claim Super Cheap IVF Techniques Can Begin Fertility Revolution
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There’s no doubt that whether for good or ill, total fertility rates have been dropping alarmingly across world populations. In the U.S., while the total fertility rate in 1911 used to be above 3, in 2010, the National Center for Health Statistics showed the TFR dropped to 1.9, which is well below the replenishment rate of 2.1.

But that is talking in broad averages. The inability to have children can have devastating effects on individual and social lives of people in any corner of the world, and while IVF techniques have prospered to the relief of many, they remain only within the reach of the wealthy. For the poor or middle class people, attempting IVF for having children means budgeting, saving up, and trade-offs against other priorities – something that they are not always able to afford.


But that again, is talking only on the financial angle – the currently practiced IVF techniques require sophisticated equipment and laboratories that move access to IVF beyond the reach of many, for reasons of location.

BBC reported on Monday, however, that a team of Belgian doctors have been successful in using techniques involving material commonly found at homes, causing expectations that the costs of IVF can be reduced by close to 30 times. While current costs of IVF in the UK are about GBP 5000 per cycle, the techniques used by the Belgian doctors can bring the costs of the same down to about GBP 170.

At least 12 healthy babies have been born from the techniques that substitute conventional high-cost carbon-dioxide incubators, medical grade gas and air purification, with citric acid and bicarbonate-of-soda and unsophisticated equipment.

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While the new techniques will not be able to substitute intracytoplasmic sperm injection where sperm is injected into an ovum, it can substitute and reduce the costs of the stage of artificial insemination and incubation outside the body.

Stuart Lavery the director of IVF at Hammersmith Hospital in London said “The weakness of the study is they’ve done it in a big lab in Belgium … But if this is real … the potential implications for this could be quite amazing.”

The lead researcher of the team said the results of success of their technique were the same as conventional IVF in big labs – a pregnancy rate of 30%. The lead researcher, Prof Ombelet told BBC that even in rich countries many couples were unable to afford IVF and he confirmed, “We’ve got demand from the US already.”


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