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Young girls seek IVF

7 July 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 266

Teenage girls in the UK are asking for infertility treatment on the NHS because they have not become pregnant after up to two years of sexual activity without using contraceptives, a doctor says. Dr Jo Heaton, a fertility specialist working at a reproductive health clinic for the under-19s in Swindon, Wiltshire, told the Sunday Telegraph Newspaper that four 14-year old girls asked her for IVF treatment.

Dr Heaton said that the girls who approached her were 'desperate' to become pregnant and told her that they were annoyed at not being pregnant after 'years of trying'. She told the newspaper that she was amazed by the requests and had to point out to the girls that they were too young to be considering treatments such as IVF. In the UK, it is illegal to have sex with a girl under the age of 16, and there are campaigns aimed at reducing the teen pregnancy rate. Recently, guidelines were published by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), which recommended that IVF should be freely available on the NHS for women aged between 23 and 39 years old, who have identifiable fertility problems or who have inexplicably failed to conceive for three years.

Telling girls that it is highly unlikely they would find someone who would conduct a fertility examination, let alone treat them, is difficult, said Dr Heaton. 'I had to explain to them that their bodies are still so immature, like girls who have not yet got their period, it's still working matters out', she said. 'And just because they can't get pregnant now doesn't mean it won't still happen when they are a bit older', she added, suggesting that one of the reasons the girls approached her might be 'low self-esteem and low aspiration'. 'I think they see it as something they think they can do successfully and that they don't have many opportunities in life', she said.

No data exists as to how many young girls are asking for fertility treatment. But, said Dr Heaton, if four girls came to one small clinic that was only open once a week, then many other teenage girls across the country must be making similar requests.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Babies who want babies
The Sunday Telegraph |  4 July 2004
Girls as young as 14 demand NHS fertility treatment
The Sunday Telegraph |  4 July 2004
They think having a baby will bring them love
The Sunday Telegraph |  4 July 2004
Underage girls ask for IVF on NHS
BBC News Online |  4 July 2004
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