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Making Babies in the 21st Century

Explores the new reproductive technologies, the opportunities they provide, and the profound social challenges they pose.

20,927 enrolled on this course

A needle artificially inseminating an egg
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

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 seconds Welcome to Making Babies in the 21st Century.

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds This 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 seconds This 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?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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 with an interest in reproductive technology, including couples and individuals seeking advice and information about fertility; medical and healthcare students; clinicians and nurses working in women’s health; and scientists and biotechnologists involved in reproductive medicine. No prior knowledge is required.

Who will you learn with?

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

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.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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