May 22, 2024

Where’s the ounce of prevention, asks Australian IVF researcher

Dr Fiona Stanley

Debates over IVF treatment are ignoring the primary question of how infertility can be prevented, says one of Australia’s leading epidemiologists, Dr Fiona Stanley. She argues that IVF should be part of a broader approach to infertility which deals with its causes and with strategies for prevention rather than with a single type of treatment.

“The causes of infertility include sexually transmitted diseases and other infections that result in damage to the tubes down which the eggs must travel to be fertilised. We have data from most Australian states to show that STDs are increasing dramatically among young people. Prevention of STDs and other infections will not only reduce infertility but also reduce teenage pregnancies, later birth and gynaecological complications and HIV,? she writes in The Australian.

“Women deciding to delay having children until they are older is another significant factor, as fertility falls dramatically beyond the age of 35. (It is also a factor in the increase in breast cancer rates.) Women who diet excessively may not ovulate, which may lead them to seek treatment for infertility rather than eating to get to their appropriate body weight. Many film stars having IVF may be too thin rather than pathological infertile and could avoid IVF by eating more. Smoking and excessive alcohol also reduce fertility.”

Dr Stanley is a former Australian of the Year and director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth. Her centre has conducted some of the most comprehensive research on the health of IVF children.