IVF’s 40th Birthday: The Missing Trend that Could Define the Future of Baby Making

By on July 20, 2018

On July 25th, assisted reproductive technology celebrates its 40th birthday.  I’m filled with gratitude remembering Chantal and Gosia and Suzanne and so many of the women I’ve worked with whose children were born thanks to the miracle of medical technology.

I also remember the stories of Heather and Louise and Leslie and Mandy and Gen and the many women who have gone through years of treatments and after an inward journey conceived in the privacy of their bedroom. Remembering their stories I can’t help but ask: how many of the millions of babies born through technology could’ve arrived at a lesser cost?

Since the birth of Louise Brown, IVF has made parenthood possible for cancer survivors, members of the LGBTQ community, singles and countless women who might otherwise not experience pregnancy. Still, four decades later getting and staying pregnant with IVF is nowhere near a sure thing.


According to the latest available (2014) data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention, for women younger than 35, only 37% of treatment cycles resulted in live births. This number decreased to 19% among women aged 38–40, and plummeted to 7% among women aged 42 and older.

couple embracing and dancing under umbrella

In more than two decades of my work as a fertility educator, I’ve celebrated the arrival of many IVF-conceived babies, with mothers and fathers who followed this road to parenthood attentive to internal cues, protective of their overall level of health.  I have also seen women, propelled by fears of childlessness, reach for the big guns of IVF as a way of tuning out the body’s call for attention.  They entered the promised land of Assisted Reproduction, blasted their ovaries with progressively more aggressive protocols, only to return years later, childless, broken and broke.

Pregnant Woman in White link to Fertile Heart Mind-Body Teleconference. Juicing for Fertility
Pregnant Woman in White link to Fertile Heart Mind-Body Teleconference. Juicing for Fertility

The Seven Trends that Define the Future of IVF was a piece written by Dr. Sable, a retired reproductive endocrinologist. (If you want a glimpse of the dystopian future we—especially those of us who are part of the infertility subculture are co-creating—you may want to read at least a part of this article. Or perhaps you could also just watch a few episodes of The Handmaids Tale.

Technopoly — a term coined by the late cultural critic, Neil Postman — is a system wherein technology is always viewed as positive and of value, with little consideration of its consequences.  “It is the kind of friend” writes Postman “that asks for trust and obedience because its gifts are truly bountiful. But, of course, there is a dark side to this friend. Its gifts are not without a heavy cost.”

This has become tragically true in the business of baby making.

The World Health Organization   and the International Committee Monitoring Reproductive Technologies (WHO-ICMART) recognizes infertility as “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.” Women over 35 are diagnosed infertile after 6 months of failing to conceive.

Does this make sense to you? Does this definition of infertility serve the women and couples searching for answers? Does it serve the incoming generation of children? Is infertility a devastating disease, or a lifesaving symptom?

If the only trends were the ones listed by Dr. Sable, we’d be in deep, deep trouble.

The trend that is missing from Dr. Sable’s piece is the one we need to keep engaging with much more courageously. It’s a trend that requires us to do the toughest things we humans are ever asked to do: feel, think and choose. Choose to speak up even when everyone around us is silent. Choose to remain loyal to no other master than our own deepest truth. Choose to risk being unpopular. Choose to be born into our far braver version of ourselves.

Because some day it might be too late. Someday our daughter or son might ask: Mom, Dad, where were you when there was still hope?


Perhaps somewhere in the overworld a council of babies-to-be convenes each day, a council whose mission is to create a more child-friendly planet. Perhaps the members of this council have vetoed breast milk laced with heavy metals and gasoline as an acceptable food item. Chances are they’ve been briefed about the endocrine disruptors such as dioxin — the most poisonous organic man-made chemical, second in toxicity only to radioactive waste — and know that these are not only slowing down our sperm and confusing our pituitary gland, are not only killing off species of butterflies, birds, fish, beetles, and bees; aren’t just contaminating the water, food, and air we breathe. They’re destroying the resources our children will need to live.

Perhaps the not-yet-born are becoming seriously worried.

–   from The Fertile Female: How the Power of Longing for a Child Can Save Your Life and Change the World.

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21 Responses to “IVF’s 40th Birthday: The Missing Trend that Could Define the Future of Baby Making”

  1. Gravid Sans Doute says:

    Dear Fertile Mamas,

    WithGratitude, wonderful for working with your dreams and your dreams from the day. AnchorMama, thank you for sharing about “see how your body responds” without judgement. tendingthegarden, wonderful for focusing on visualization and dreams.

    I have been working with letting my body move the way it needs to and positive statements body truth and Mirror of Truth Fertile Heart imagery. My visionary actions have been to focus more on breathing and to do something nurturing for myself every day.

    Blessings to all.

  2. tendingthearden says:

    Hi fertile parents,

    I know it’s a few weeks before the next visionary series starts but I wanted to reach out to see how the practice was going for you all. I’ve been struggling in the last week to continue to do the visualization and to carve out time and I’m wondering if anyone else is struggling or if you are having ibreakthrough moments, dreams, anything you want to share. It helps me to stay focused and committed. I’ve been doing dream work and working through some dream work. My visionary action this week is to carve out time daily to do the visualization and really tend to myself and be present with myself.

    What is emerging for you?

    Sending you love and connection.

  3. WithGrattitude says:

    Hello Julia and Fertile Mamas,

    I enjoy seeing all your updates – it helps keep me uplifted and reinforces my desire to keep practicing.

    I have been working with the imagery Julia provided for me a couple of calls back to help heal my orphan. She is quite upset she hasn’t gotten what she wants. With the help of the imagery, and spending time with her, I feel like she’s becoming more calm and soothed. I have been trying to read my dreams to understand why certain people are showing up in them and what messages they have for me. I also love the idea of looking back on the day as if it were a waking dream. I have been able to focus on some snippets of my days this past week that conjured up warm and happy feelings. I look forward to continuing with the practice and seeing what continues to come up for me.

    Many thanks to you all for sharing and encouraging.

  4. AnchorMama says:

    To all the beautiful Mama’s,
    Thank you to you and to Julia. I have so missed all of your voices, even those I’ve never heard before. It isn’t so much the voice, but the compassion, devotion, support and love within each voice that allows mine to become stronger. I have also been trying to do more waking dream work. It is always interesting to take a pause and see some of the small things that I looked over, as well as to sit and feel my body respond. On the call Julia said, “See how your body responds to things, not from a place of judgement, but to get to know yourself better.” I found that so incredibly helpful. I feel that often when I am self reflecting it comes from a place of judgement. That shift in my perspective has been uplifting. I have also been working with the sentence: “I don’t want to ________ because ________.” It is difficult to dig past the obvious yet I feel like finding the true answer(s) will be healing on many levels. I have been doing unconditional gratitude and orphans for body truth this week. I think that I often shut off before I give my orphans the space to really feel. I’m looking forward to the call tomorrow and hearing the beautiful strong passionate voices on the other end of the phone. The bravery is astounding and each one of you gives me courage to keep going at a time when I’ve been feeling like giving up. So thank you thank you thank you.

  5. tendingthearden says:

    Good morning fertile mamas,

    Excited to connect with you all tomorrow evening. I’m working on being more present to myself-which in turn is allowing me to be more present to my partner. I felt some internal shifting this week and last. The main practice I’ve been focusing on is daily imagery and dreams. I actually created my own imagery exercise based off of the field of creation which I’m finding quite useful. My dreams have been rich and I’ve been remembering them more and more. And I’ve been working on my creative projects. My main visionary action remains the same–create the conditions for connection to myself and others.

    Much love to you all and I hope you are feeling a sense of hope and love and presence.

  6. Gravid Sans Doute says:

    Dear Fertile Mamas,

    LoveWins, that is wonderful you added walks into your routine and have returned to imagery and body truth.tendingthegarden, I like your waking dream work.

    I have been working with longed for family imagery and saying confident things to myself body truth and walking. I have also been working with what depletes me and what energizes me. Some things that deplete me include not enough time for meals, dwelling on my son’s situation and something I am finding energizing is taking a few moments for myself each day to do something that feels good to me – some music, massaging my head, etc. I have remembered at least a little bit of a couple of dreams. That is encouraging since I haven’t been remembering too many dream lately.

    Blessings to all.

  7. LoveWins says:

    Hi Julia,

    I was able to take my orphan for a walk yesterday and today. Right now, my goal is for a daily walk with her and to continue with Field of Creation imagery. Due to the recent upending of my life, I’m working on feeling grounded, connected to myself and safe. Thank you for your words of wisdom and for creating this community that helps me feel like I have some company on this journey that has felt so isolating previously. I look forward to our circle this coming Tuesday.


  8. LoveWins says:

    Dear Julia,

    It was so nice to hear your voice and the voices of the other mommas on the call last week. It has been a rough few months of moving and this caused me to drift away from my practice. When I started with the imagery (Sacred Choices) and body truth (Unconditional Gratitude) again, it was so obvious that it is what I need to be doing. My mindset and bodyspace shifted immediately to being in a more kind and receptive state. My goal for this past week has been to get my routine of self care back on track with the imagery exercises and body truth. This next week will be about getting regular movement into the routine as it is something that my body has been calling for for a long time. I thank you for providing these call circles and guidance along this journey. I’m so glad I found you and the other Fertile Heart Mommas.


    • tendingthearden says:

      Dear fertile mamas,

      Thank you all for your work today. It felt like everyone who spoke was extending a hand toward me and to toward each other in the circle. I kept asking myself questions like, “How connected do I want to be to others in this process?” I found myself over and over wanting to connect. To reach out and offer something. I’m unsure what but something that could be useful. I found myself wondering how beautiful it would be if we all were able to help each other conceive the families we are longing for. So I wanted to offer a few notes or ideas or words that struck me today: Scan the day like its a dream. What a beautiful way to sit at the end of the day before moving on to dinner or to something else. Ask, why don’t I want to move? Waves. water. I’m the expert. The child trusts me. The child trusts that I will keep her safe. Know ourselves from a place of compassion. Discovery and adventure.

      At the end of todays session when we were excavating the dream, a bunch of feelings came up for me. I tapped into the longing I have to be pregnant and have a child. I feel so much shame about wanting to be pregnant, like it isn’t ok for me to want this. But the truth is I do. I want to give birth to my child. It is really hard for me to connect to that longing. But I am slowly more and more connecting to that longing and desire. So thank you all for sharing and giving me permission to long for and to dream. At the end of todays call someone said you are already a mother. And I feel that way too. I am already a mother.

      This week I’m going to invite some dreams to stick around after waking. I’m also going to work with this body scan at the end of the day and see what emerges from that “waking dream” state.

      Blessings and love to you all.

  9. Gravid Sans Doute says:

    Dear Fertile Mamas,

    I have been working with telling myself good things and moving in a confident way body truth. I have been working with 2 frame imagery. I spoke with my husband about my feelings about my son’s marriage relationship. He was so helpful to help me identify which parts of what I was perceiving were my orphans and which was accurate perception. The orphans have been in the first frame speaking their truth and my ultimate Mom in the 3d frame is the mother to these orphans. This has been helpful, so that is my visionary action for this last week – to continue to identify the orphans, let them speak and comfort them. I have been struggling with this for a while, and even though I am not totally at peace, for the moment it is somewhat better.

    Blessings to all.

  10. WithGrattitude says:

    After a brief break, it is really healing to be back with this circle of Visionaries again. I learn so much from every call, whether I hop on the bench or not. This practice is the most loving fertility work I’ve done for myself since starting to try for a child 3 years ago.

    Julia – this post is definitely thought provoking. As women are having children later and later, beyond the prime fertile window as the doctors would have us believe, there does need to be a bigger emphasis on our feeling, thinking and choosing as you put it. We can’t let the doctors’ words be the be all and end all. They don’t have all the answers. No one does. We need to play our part in navigating our journeys and seeking out the best courses for ourselves.

    I look forward to connecting with everyone again on Tuesday!

  11. Sway in the Dance of Trust says:

    Dear Julia, and fellow visionary parents!

    Congratulations to us on starting back on the visionary circle! I am writing a comment as I promised on the progress on my visionary-rooted action.
    I did reach out to the topmost shelf. While I was going through the papers, I remembered i had to look for a certain report to give to my doctor. I ended up finding the report – hope it satisfies their paperwork requirement. While I did not actually get rid of any unwanted papers, I made a start and I am patting myself on the back for that.

    Today I ended up sweeping the floors of some of the rooms. Feeling good with cleaner floors, also making a dent in the copious laundry.

    I picked “Lifting the Burden” imagery for this week. Reminding myself that i can shed the burden, and i will be okay, and walk free and dance freely on this journey of discovery towards my deepest desires. I have been sharing quite a bit on the circles about my own journey and everything in this blog resonates with me very well. Right now, simply breathing with everyone else as I keep walking on my own journey.

    I spoke to a friend of mine after a very long gap, and I shared with her the work i have been doing with FH. She was amazed to find that such practice exists and did not lose anytime in realizing how valuable it is and its transformative power. I wish those who are sitting on the fence, will give this practice a chance with all their heart, and I wish myself to commit to doing body truth. I listened to the entire movement sequences cd this evening. That’s a great start for me.

    Looking forward to connecting again on Tuesday.

    • How lovely your new name Sway in the Dance of Trust. Congratulations to YOU on choosing to dance on this road in such an openhearted. courageous wauy. Lucky me, that I get to witness your dance and dance with you!

  12. thurmakn says:

    Dear Julia,
    It’s been quite a ride of self and relationship discovery- this process of conceiving our child. Along the way, we have come to the decision that IVF is not the choice for us as a couple. Because we don’t have any defined issues that point explicitly to IVF, we want to conceive naturally, or as close to that as possible. We did once before, and that little life went on back into the ether at 6.5 weeks. I am grateful that, in searching for answers, I found you and Fertile Heart. It is a practice that challenges me, enriches me, and helps me to remember the truth: we were made for this.

    • mariana33 says:

      Dear Julia,

      I first found you 11 years ago. In a different relationship and struggling to conceive. The fertile heart work helped me get in touch with the deeper struggle I’d been having. While I very much wanted to have a child back then, I was not ready. I wasn’t in the right relationship. I had a tremendous amount of fear about being a mother. Fear/ambivalence opposite sides of the same coin. I find myself here now and ready. Ready to move more deeply toward the longing even though at age 44 I may not conceive with my own eggs. I just feel open to being a mother. So I am here to be here and be in deeper connection to this longing. For me IVF has been on and off the table. At first many years ago, I was vehemently against it. Now, it may be the likely path forward. But I want to listen to my body and my heart as I limit the inner voices of caution in favor of the voices of desire and movement forward. I’m excited about tonight’s workshop.

  13. hollyhouse78 says:

    Dear Julia-

    I’ve taken part in 2 of your Intro-teleconference series, once shortly before we conceived the second time, and shortly after my 3rd loss. I’ve been able to get pregnant 3 times on my own in the past 2 years- none of which has resulted in bringing a baby home. We even tried IVF in between all of these losses- $30,000 for a completely failed retrieval. But that experience led me to finding you. And, led me to having hope and being in a place of “knowing” that IVF does not feel right for us and that I believe, one day, that we will conceive our baby the natural way and be parents. I learn so much from you and from all of the other women on the calls. I’m amazed at how much I learn from someone else’s story, from someone else’s response. I want to continue to show up, and learn what my future child is trying to tell me.


  14. Gravid Sans Doute says:

    Dear Fertile Mamas,

    Bel, many congratulations on your pregnancy! It all comes down to taking care of ourselves and honoring ourselves and our planet. We are wonderful amazing people whether babies are the result or not. It is hard to keep this perspective. Probably the medical community could do more to emphasize that we are amazing people no matter what, instead of using challenging language that devalues our wonderfulness.

    My work has provided many challenges with a manager I have been working with for a while who was very stern and strict. I am grateful to say the manager who hired me has returned after a leave of absence and so far he is very kind and supportive of me. I am so grateful.

    I have been working with the longed for family imagery and positive confident statements body truth. Just recently I have been able to remove myself from constant fretting over the job to more of a focus on me, at least for moments at a time. I am grateful for that.

    Blessings to all.

    Blessings to all.

  15. Bel says:

    Dear Julia,

    I so hear every word you write. Once upon a time I was actually very anti-IVF. I began my journey towards my child in my early forties and believed I could conceive naturally – after all, my mother had a child easily at 41, I took super good care of myself, so why not. And, indeed, for many this is possible. But as the years passed by I gradually realised that for me it would not be possible (not helped by the fact we had male factor issues, too).

    I am lucky. I found you early on in my journey. I also had a resistance to using allopathic medicine unless absolutely essential. So I was never going to be the person to rush to IVF. But I am very glad that I was also not the person to resolutely refuse it per se, under all circumstances, as some people I know have done. That would not have been the right choice for me (though of course it might be for some). And I am 100% certain that had I refused it, I would not be sitting here today, 19 weeks pregnant. The final IVF journey we took (with donor eggs after 2 rounds of natural cycle IVF with no drugs & my own eggs, which went nowhere) felt so right – the clinic was wonderful, it was, to my surprise, actually quite a beautiful experience.

    I have to say that I have, over the last few years, come to respect allopathic medicine hugely, but I still believe it is to be used with discernment.

    So thank you for being you, and for daring to bring this stuff up in a world which seems to ‘pop’ IVF cycles as easily as it pops painkillers.


    Bel x

  16. AnchorMama says:

    Dearest Julia,
    Another well stated post. As you know I am one of the many women who jumped head first wherever and whenever the RE told me after being told I’d never conceive even at the young age of 31. I met each failed treatment with panic and the question of how quickly can we try again? My perspective was completely skewed by their words, recommendations and my fears. It wasn’t until a friend sent me one of your emails, and I’d read Inconceivable cover to cover that I realized I’d been ignoring the smartest, bravest person who knows me best, me. But that was after 4 IUIs, 2 IVFs, and 3 egg donor IVFs (now 4). That was after I’d spent 3 years injecting myself with megadoses of hormones and spent an incredible amount of money. I still battle daily with my fears triggered by the doctors words that still ring in my head, despite my now 4 year old playing with me (conceived the old fashion way much to the shock of my doctors). The difference is although I still walk this road, I’m not alone and I’m stronger, braver and more aware than ever before. Your guidance and teachings have not only saved my life and brought me my miracle son, but also have changed my approach to life and the world in general. I am helping to make this world a better place despite daily obstacles to that. You and the Fertile Heart Practice are changing the world and not just the fertility world.

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