Trends in Reproductive Health
Humans have always reproduced by having sex … but this is changing fast.
In 1960, with the revolution of birth control, sex became decoupled from reproduction and couples no longer had to worry about procreating when having sex.
Now there is a new sexual revolution upon us in which reproduction is decoupled from sex and people no longer have to have sex to have a baby.
In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
Couples struggling to conceive have turned to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to have children, which is a procedure in which fertilisation happens in a lab by manually injecting a sperm into an egg and creating an embryo, which is then implanted into the uterus.
But to take part in IVF you need healthy eggs and sperm:
Freezing eggs and semen
As more women are delaying childbirth to pursue careers or finding the right man, many are opting for egg storage, so that they do not have their biological clock dictate when the best time is to have a baby.
Additionally more men are considering storing their semen, especially those that are undergoing cancer therapies and those men involved in extreme sports which affect the quality of their sperm.
However, making a baby is largely pot-luck. You never know what you are going to get. Everyone hopes for healthy children and advances in genetic testing are resulting in more couples opting for IVF to ensure this.
More and more couples undergoing IVF will opt for genetic screening of their embryos before implantation. This is known a preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) which is a general screen for chromosomal abnormalities and allows selection of genetically healthy embryos which increases the success of pregnancy rates and reduces miscarriages.
Additionally, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is a test that helps detect single gene diseases. Individuals affected with a family history of any inherited disease can consider IVF and have their embryos tested to identify which embryos do not carry the disease for implantation and thus eliminate the risk of passing this disease onto their children. As more and more people opt for this, various inherited diseases could eventually be eliminated off the planet.
CRISPR-Cas9 has taken the world by storm and this technology now allows for gene editing of diseases. It acts like a pair of scissors and goes in and cuts out the error and fixes it. Soon it may be possible to edit the DNA of an embryo to eliminate an inherited disease or even make changes to the traits of the child. This subject is being hotly debated by scientists and ethicists worldwide.
It is already possible to identify the sex of a baby from an embryo and science will soon reach the stage where we will be able to select the traits of our offspring – brains vs beauty vs athletic ability. This is not legal and certainly very controversial but the science is not far off.
Life as we know it is fast becoming programmable.
Next Biosciences does not partake in any sex selection and are opposed to designer babies for anything but medical reasons