health

Will artificial wombs make pregnancy a thing of the past?

Pregnancy could soon become obsolete, thanks to science.

Introducing ectogenesis – the process of growing a baby in an artificial womb, instead of inside the mother’s body.

Experts believe these “artificial wombs” could be widely used within decades.

artificial wombs
Experts believe artificial wombs could be widely used within decades. Image via iStock.

Writing for Motherboard, futurist Zoltan Istvan explained:

"The term ectogenesis was coined in 1924 by British scientist J.B.S. Haldane. He predicted by 2074 only 30 percent of births would be human births. Science has grown much quicker than he realised, and his take is probably much too conservative. Some futurists like myself (I’m also married to an ObGyn) think ectogenesis will be here in 20 years, and widely used in 30 years around the world."

Yikes.

But while the idea is definitely controversial and raises many ethical questions, Istvan says the technology is being developed for medical reasons - to prevent premature births, to produce healthier babies, to help women who are unable to conceive or carry their own babies and to save women from the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth.

And they're making incredible progress.

Mouse and goat embyos have already been grown in artificial wombs, while Dr Helen Hung-Ching Liu, Director of the Reproductive Endocrine Laboratory at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University, has grown a human embryo artificially for 10 days.

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So while it sounds like a science fiction movie plot, scientists say proper human testing could begin within ten years.

Image via Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

But critics believe artificial wombs could rob women of their traditional child-bearing role. Many worry that it is unnatural and unnecessary, while others claim the bonding process that occurs between mother and child during pregnancy could be lost.

However on the other hand, supporters say that apart from the medical benefits, it could also help older women and same-sex couples have children, as well as help "unchain women from the home".

Whatever your beliefs, it's definitely a fascinating idea...

Do you think artificial wombs are a good idea?

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