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The Paris Hilton IVF Controversy: Her Statements, and What They Mean for the Fertility Community
While Paris Hilton’s statements about her IVF journey were seemingly well-intentioned, many members of the IVF community still expressed their concerns about the financial and ethical implications of Hilton’s comments.
April 5, 2021
On the January 25, 2021, episode of “The Trend Reporter with Mara” podcast, Paris Hilton discussed starting her family with her fiancé Carter Reum. Specifically, Hilton made statements about beginning in vitro fertilization treatments.
In response to her interview with “The Trend Reporter,” people have raised concerns about Hilton’s reasons for pursuing IVF and the way in which she’s addressed her fertility journey.
Here’s everything you need to know about what Hilton said and how her statements have impacted the fertility community.
Hilton’s IVF Experience: What She’s Said Publicly
In an episode from the podcast “The Trend Reporter with Mara” titled “The Original Trendsetter, Paris Hilton,” Hilton explained that she has started in vitro fertilization treatments. Hilton also stated her reasoning for undergoing IVF, saying that she wanted to ensure that she could have “twins that are a boy and a girl.” Hilton noted that with IVF, prospective parents could select which embryos they would want to use, albeit with an added cost.
When asked to elaborate on why she wanted to use IVF to start her family, Hilton said, "I think it's just something that most women should do just to have, and then you can pick if you want boys or girls … I really want to have twins that are a boy and a girl, so the only way to 100% get that is by making it happen that way."
After making these comments, Hilton was met with criticism on social media from people who have experienced IVF complications and challenges. Specifically, people were upset that Hilton spoke about using IVF to select the sex of her children when some couples struggle to have any healthy embryos at all.
IVF Stigma and Shame: The Effects of Hilton’s Comments
Since Hilton’s January interview, authors and professionals in the IVF community have spoken out about the negative effects of Hilton’s comments. Amy Klein, the author of The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind, recently wrote a response to Hilton’s statements for NBC News.
In her response, Klein highlighted the challenges she faced on her own fertility journey. Although she stressed that she does not want to pile onto the backlash and hate that Hilton has received, Klein did explore the nuances of Hilton’s comments and the ways that fertility treatments are stigmatized in our culture.
As someone who did nine rounds of IVF over four years to have a baby, Klein explained that she is no stranger to the shame associated with needing medical help for child-bearing and realizing that your body is not working the way you had always assumed it would. Additionally, Klein reiterated that she understands that many of the people criticizing Hilton who have undergone IVF are upset because they did not go through the invasive and expensive IVF process just to select the gender and the number of their children.
Even though some people believe that prospective parents can use IVF to get a baby with a specific gender and certain traits, Klein emphasized that through her interviewing of gay people, straight people, single people, and married couples, she’s learned that every patient is the same once they get into the fertility system. No matter who you are, fertility treatment can be physically and emotionally taxing.
Klein also emphasized the health risks and consequences from having twins through IVF. Essentially, IVF twins are more likely to be born earlier than singletons and have a sevenfold risk for delivery before 32 weeks — eight weeks before the full term. Similarly, twins are nearly twice as likely to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit.
Because of these statistics, many fertility doctors and professionals recommend transferring one embryo at a time.
Hilton’s Motivations: An Ethical Dilemma?
In addition to contributing to the stigma and shame associated with medically assisted family-building and using IVF for nonmedical reasons, Hilton’s statements raise other ethical concerns related to IVF treatments.
Firstly, Hilton’s comments underscore the disparity in access to fertility treatments between wealthy individuals and average Americans. Many women across the country struggle to access and afford the fertility treatments that they need, and Hilton’s reasoning for pursuing IVF — to have a set of boy/girl twins — felt insensitive to individuals who do not have the adequate funding or insurance coverage that is necessary to receive IVF treatments.
On top of this, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) can be even more expensive for patients. Even though it costs more, PGD — a process that can be included with IVF that screens embryos for what sex chromosomes they have — doesn’t actually increase the chances that an embryo will implant and survive a full pregnancy.
When specifically considering the ethical implications of Hilton’s statements, Dr. William Key expressed concerns about the gender selection of embryos used in IVF. Key, an OB/GYN at the University of Utah Health, believes that this type of gender selection could potentially lead to an imbalanced population between sexes, especially in places where certain genders are given preferential treatment. Even though sexism isn’t playing a role in Hilton’s IVF motivations, Key feels that statements like Hilton’s could set the precedent for the sexist selection of embryos in other communities down the line.
Since there is still some stigmatization surrounding medically-assisted family building, it can be important for prominent celebrities to share their experiences with IVF and other fertility treatments. While Paris Hilton’s statements about her IVF journey were seemingly well-intentioned, many members of the IVF community still expressed their concerns about the financial and ethical implications of Hilton’s comments.
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