The Future of Pregnancy

The Future of Pregnancy

January 17th, 2014 | Posted in Art & Society, Innovation

pregnancy pic

Image source: iamnotthebabysitter.com

By Guest Author Alex Pejak

Pregnancy and the process of childbirth have come a long way in the past century or so, and huge advancements are happening more and more frequently that make pregnancy safer for the mother and the baby. In the mid-1800s, the mortality rate of women during childbirth was greater than 1 in 10, even at some of the world’s top hospitals at the time. With modern medicine and hospitals, that number is closer to 1 in 10,000 now. The entire process of pregnancy and giving birth will undoubtedly get even safer as technology and medicine advance further, and pregnancy is also going to change and evolve in other ways besides just safety.

Let’s take a look at the future (and present) of pregnancy, including such topics as choosing the sex of your baby, prescreening for diseases, and fertilization techniques that allow couples to have babies though they wouldn’t have been able to in the past for numerous reasons.

Current Achievements in Pregnancy

You don’t have to look far into the future to find some very interesting advancements that have taken place when it comes to pregnancy. Before we start to look at what’s coming up on the horizon, let’s discuss what’s currently taking place with PGD.

PGD stands for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, also known as embryo screening, which is a process that has been practiced since the 1990s. You can think of this as a type of filtering process in which a three-day-old embryo has its six cells tested to see if it contains any genetic markers that would indicate the potential for disease. Only the embryos that have tested negative for signs of disease would be implanted into the womb of the mother. As such, the likelihood of the baby being born with disease is reduced. This process has been improving, and it opens the doors to all sorts of other options for selective reproduction in which parents could choose other traits for their children as well, such as gender, height, and a lot more.

Let’s not forget the 3/4d ultrasound, which gives us a much clearer image of the baby. It wasn’t that long ago that there weren’t any ultra sound photos at all, but the level of detail we can see today is very impressive.

What’s In Store In The Future for Pregnancy?

Undoubtedly, pregnancy is going to become even safer as time passes. Even though it’s become much safer than it was, becoming pregnant remains the single most dangerous thing a woman can do, statistically. According to ABC News, approximately 1000 women die each day giving birth, mostly due to bleeding or infections.  Safety isn’t the only thing that’s going to change as the future draws nearer, however, so let’s take a look at advancements when it comes to being able to “design” your baby, artificial wombs and more.

Designer Babies

In this day and age it’s possible to customize everything from a cellphone case, to a t-shirt, to a home. What’s next, designer babies? Yes, quite possibly, but it doesn’t quite work how many people might imagine. It’s not a matter of filling out a checklist that says “I want a male baby that grows up to be six feet tall, with blonde hair, a lean body type, and a fondness for mathematics and science.” That’s just not how genetics work, however if you recall the process of “filtering” embryos to select the ones that are disease free, the process of choosing other traits could work similarly.

We aren’t there yet, scientifically, and it poses a lot of moral questions as well. Some argue this is creating even more of a barrier between the haves and the have-nots, where wealthy people will be able to selectively design “premium” babies that have all sorts of advantages, essentially rigging the genetic lottery in their favor. In general, people are a lot more comfortable with screening for diseases than screening for blonde hair or pretty eyes.

In some countries, a similar process can be used to help ensure that the mother gives birth to whichever gender she chooses for her child. Many people from Australia and around the world will travel to California, where this in vitro fertilization process costs roughly $30,000, but the price tag doesn’t matter for parents who are desperate to choose the gender of their baby. It’s worth nothing that there are no guarantees that this process will work.

Easier To Get Pregnant

Many couples still struggle with fertility. They’re not concerned with pre-screening for diseases or choosing exactly how they want their baby to look, their major concern is simply to bring new life into this world. When one partner suffers from infertility, it can cause a major strain on even the healthiest of relationships. Here’s what Alan Trounson has said on the topic, “I think it will be possible that we’ll be able to extend the fertile period for women by producing germ cells from iPS technology, or by a variant of nuclear transfer, so somatic cells [which make up most of the body’s cells] become germ cells and are refreshed genetically.”

This will make the fertilization process easier for some couples who are struggling with it, but as with most things when it comes to changing how nature intended pregnancy to work, there are moral concerns. On the topic of morality and ethics, Mr. Trounson says, “Ethics keeps moving. What was once seen as dangerous goes on to be seen as within the confines of acceptable risk. Probably the major development in the field will come from something we’ve never thought about.”

The End of Infertility – Artificial Wombs, Eggs and Sperm

As we blaze trails medically and scientifically in the 21st century, parenthood and raising their own children is becoming a possibility for couples who previously wouldn’t have had the opportunity. Homosexual couples, for example, currently have to find a woman who is willing to carry their child for them, however the idea of artificial wombs is making a huge splash. As you can imagine, similar to most of the things we’ve discussed thus far, this is a controversial topic. However, when you bear in mind the fact that pregnancy is the most common cause of death amongst women, and the fact that an artificial womb offers a solution for women with fertility difficulties, it’s likely only a matter of time until this concept is widely accepted in society.

Final Thoughts on the Future of Pregnancy

Nobody has a crystal ball and we can’t predict the future, but as the human race moves forward, there’s no doubt that the way women get pregnant and the ways that they are able to deliver their babies are going to continue to evolve and change. One hundred years ago, who would have predicted what the face of pregnancy would look like today? Now fast forward another 100 years, who knows what’s in store?

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