NEW OPTIONS FOR FERTILITY by Dr. Arthur L. Wisot and Dr. David R. Meldrum (Pharos Books: $19.95)

The most useful advise contained in this guidebook to assisted reproduction can be taken standing up, in a bookstore--as opposed to much of what Wisot and Meldrum offer, which has to be taken lying down. At the back of the book there is a list, adapted from a 1989 House of Representatives subcommittee hearing, of institutions that have infertility programs, how long they've been in operation, and their success rates. A few pages further on, there's a glossary of terms, which may help an anxious couple decipher what the authors call the "alphabet soup" of reproductive science--from the familiar IVF (in vitro fertilization) to more recently introduced procedures like GIFT, PROST, or ZIFT.

The chapters that precede the nuts-and-bolts information, however well-intentioned they obviously are, are more narrowly focused than one would like them to be. The doctors diligently march the reader through a maze of medical and scientific material, as though preparing troops for combat. They try--an honorable effort--to cut through all the wild claims of some advertising that preys on a couple's vulnerability and fails to face the fact that even technology cannot make some people have babies. They also use statistics to reassure: After a lifetime of caution, many couples are surprised to find that they don't get pregnant in the first month; the doctors suggest remaining calm for the first year.

But they give short shrift to the emotional aspects of infertililty--a tougher issue to pin down, surely, but one that deserves more attention than it gets here. The question of whether a couple really wants to conceive (an issue the doctors wisely suggest be resolved before undergoing treatment) is dismissed in a paragraph. The phenomenon of women who conceive without assistance after giving up on treatment in frustration, anger or despair isn't mentioned at all. The mind is as much a part of the body as is the reproductive system. It's too bad Wisot's and Meldrum's curiosity didn't extend a bit further.

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