Page URL:

TV Review: The Baby Makers

21 January 2013
By Mark Johnson
Policy Advisor, National Infertility Awareness Campaign
Appeared in BioNews 689

Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic

BBC4, Wednesday 9 Jan 2013

'Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic', BBC4, Wednesday 9 Jan 2013

The BBC's hour-long documentary 'The Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic' followed the ups and downs of both patients and staff at one of Britain's largest fertility centres - the Hewitt Fertility Centre in Liverpool.

I was immediately impressed – this is both an entertaining and informative documentary. Led by the clinic's lead gynaecologist Professor Charles Kingsland, the viewer is taken on a journey through the various stages of IVF treatment from pre-treatment screening and advice to the attaching of the fertilised egg onto the wall of the uterus and then the wait to see if a pregnancy results.

We are told at the outset that the chances of success are low (approximately 30 percent for women under 35) and that most women only get one or two cycles of IVF on the NHS, and it was hard not to be drawn in by the emotionally charged atmosphere of the clinic.

No one truly knows what it is like to go through fertility treatment until they experience it themselves. Yet it is not hard to empathise. During the documentary we see that one couple are successful in their treatment, another three are not. Unfortunately, this reflects the reality of fertility treatment.

As the documentary shows, some couples produce more viable embryos than others. Those that produce a small number are immediately placed at a disadvantage. Most couples will have the option to cryopreserve embryos for future transfers, but for some couples this may never be an option due to the low number or poor quality of the eggs or sperm harvested.

For this reason it is essential that couples be given the chance to receive three full cycles of IVF on the NHS as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Each cycle should include the transfer of any stored embryos.

This makes a lot of sense and has been proven to be cost-effective. Yet even now, almost a decade after the publication of the national guideline on fertility, IVF continues to be rationed.

In 2011, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility published a report detailing levels of provision throughout the country. It found that over 70 percent of NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were not providing the recommended three cycles of IVF to eligible couples. To make matters worse, a number of PCTs continue to operate strict access criteria in order to limit the number of referrals to the clinics.

This is very disappointing when you consider that ultimately infertility is a disease. As Professor Kingsland says: 'If you look at the definition of disease, it is an abnormality of easiness. And one of the things you notice about men and women that want to have children and who can't have children - they are diseased. And any disease is worthy of treatment. And ideally, in this country, I believe diseases should be treated free at the point of access within the NHS'.

Whilst statements such as this will come as no surprise to those working in the NHS, others amongst the general public might be more surprised. When it comes to fertility treatment, many misconceptions still exist; for some IVF continues to be regarded as something of a luxury or even a lifestyle choice.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I commend the BBC for producing a programme that attempts to tackle such stigma and hopes that this issue is not forgotten over the coming months amidst the wider shake-up of the NHS.

Although the programme has now been taken off of the BBC's online streaming service, 'The Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic' is available on YouTube for those that have yet to see it.

15 October 2012 - by Daniel Malynn 
'Win a Baby' follows the trials and tribulations of Camille Strachan, a former City worker and model, who plans to launch the UK's first IVF lottery. Unlike many documentaries where the maker's own thoughts are thrust in front of anyone else's, the commentary is fairly neutral, allowing viewers space to form their own opinions...
19 March 2012 - by Daniel Malynn 
This episode of Waterloo Road tries to cover two areas of interest for BioNews; firstly known donation agreements, and secondly genetic testing. I must from the outset of this review highlight the word 'tries'; unfortunately no such warning was given to the viewers before the show....
5 September 2011 - by Jenny Dunlop 
Anyone who has worked in any capacity in a fertility clinic will, I hope, have wondered what the meeting of an anonymous donor and the donor-conceived person would be like. Would it be like a birth parent meeting an adopted child; would it be like TV documentaries, with all the build up and the huge emotion?...
8 August 2011 - by Dr Anna Smajdor 
In 2007, the world's media reported - with various degrees of shock and disapproval - on a Big Brother-style TV programme being created in Holland. This was Big Brother with a bizarre twist: instead of a cash prize and a moment of minor celebrity, the winner would get ... a kidney. Fast forward to 2011. A similar media outcry has been provoked by the announcement by fertility charity To Hatch of a lottery where the prize is - not cash; not a kidney, but... fertility treatment...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.