Making Babies in the 21st Century

Explore new reproductive technologies and discover the opportunities they provide and the profound social challenges they pose.

  • Duration 6 weeks
  • Weekly study 2 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $64 Find out more

Why join the course?

This course looks at six different areas of assisted reproduction and explores both the science and the impact they are having. The course is structured as a journey, taking as its starting point a person or couple who might make use of technology in order to conceive. The course also looks at the powerful new genetic techniques that are creating new opportunities i the field of reproduction.

Understand the choices that surround assisted reproduction

A person or a couple might go through assisted fertility using their own sperm and eggs, and in that case the journey would be quite straightforward. This course covers those cases where the choices might be more difficult, and where more thought is required. These choices include whether:

  • to access fertility online
  • to freeze eggs to preserve fertility
  • to choose a known or an anonymous donor
  • to use a surrogate (and, if so, in an ethical way)
  • to test the embryo or baby for genetic abnormalities
  • whether to allow future development in human genome editing

All of these issues pose urgent ethical challenges. But who decides what’s right or wrong? Who is potentially harmed? And how is this changing our society?

Explore the challenges posed by reproductive technology

Making Babies in the 21st Century will look at human reproduction in an age where reproductive technology is becoming more common, exploring the social, ethical and legal challenges that currently confront us. The course will enable you to:

  • explore how technology is changing the way babies are made and how family life is constructed;
  • appreciate the key ethical dilemmas that these new technologies bring;
  • and gain awareness of the social aspects of the relevant ethical challenges

Learn with UCL’s Institute for Women’s Health

The course has been created by Dr Dan Reisel, a research associate and clinical research fellow in Women’s Health at UCL. The content of the course grows out of the ethics teaching at the Institute for Women’s Health, and brings together clinicians, scientists, patient advocates and students interested in the ethical and social implications of the new reproductive and genomic technologies.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsWelcome to Making Babies in the 21st Century.

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 secondsThis course explores the new technologies in assisted fertility and looks at the impact they're having on individuals and couples, as well as society in general. My name is Dan Reisel and I work at the Institute for Women's Health at University College London, where I do research and co-ordinate the module on the ethics of assisted reproduction. Over the next six weeks, we will look at some of the most fascinating - and controversial - issues in modern fertility medicine, and we will hear the stories of people involved in using these technologies.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds"If you are wondering why we are doing this course, or why you should care about this stuff, it's because somebody, some folks out there in the world, really need to be abreast of these questions, they need to be alive to the implications, the social, the cultural, the ethical, the legal implications of these kinds of developments, and be able to constitute, and engage in, a really important, absolutely vital, social debate. We will also speak with clinicians, both in the private sector and in the NHS, as well as leading scientists and academics working in this field. This gives an opportunity to learn from the world leading experts and for you to contribute to this vital conversation.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsThis course if for anyone interested in learning more about these new technologies and how they are changing the oldest of human endeavours - the business of making babies. I look forward to welcoming you to this course, and I hope you will enjoy your learning.

What topics will you cover?

The topics of the course are listed below.

  • Regulation of donor gametes (egg and sperm)
  • Fertility preservation (egg freezing)
  • Donor anonymity and parental disclosure
  • International surrogacy agreements, including surrogacy
  • Genetic testing of embryos and early in pregnancy
  • The prospect of human genome editing

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Following the course, learners will be able to synthesise information from a number of different fields.
  • Critically assess the accuracy and value of information about assisted fertility that is provided in the public domain (i.e., on the internet).
  • Be able to confidently contribute to the vital societal conversation around the use of reproductive and genetic technologies.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the science and ethics-legal aspects of assisted fertility.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which fertility medicine is changing the way babies are born and the way families are constructed.
  • Be able to explain how each of the technologies covered in the course are changing the way people think about fertility and families.
  • Be able to reflect critically on the advantages and disadvantages of the new reproductive technologies.

Who is the course for?

Making Babies in the 21st Century is intended for anyone interested to learn more about reproductive technology, including medical and healthcare students; clinicians and nurses working in women’s health; scientists and biotechnologists involved in reproductive medicine, and couples and individuals seeking advice and information about fertility.

Healthcare professionals might find the the Certificate of Achievement for this course useful for providing evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), or commitment to their career.

Who will you learn with?

Dan Reisel

Dan Reisel

Senior Research Associate, Institute for Women's Health (UCL). Coordinator of the ethics teaching on the Institute's MSc courses, researcher in preventive medicine and bioethics in Women's Health

Lyndsey Butterworth

Lyndsey Butterworth

Research Associate in the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research, Newcastle University. Research interests include preventing mitochondrial disease transmission and developing treatments.

Helen O'Neill

Helen O'Neill

Molecular geneticist and lecturer in reproductive science at UCL. Programme Director for the MSc in Reproductive Science and Women's Health at University College London.

Who developed the course?

UCL (University College London)

UCL was founded in 1826. It was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, and the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it.

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