IVF – ILL CONCEIVED?

So many people have questioned my reasoning behind never attempting IVF when I was trying to get pregnant years ago. As I am an over-thinker, and also one that requires a lot of details before making an informed decision, I think that I made the right choice for me.

I did go and see an IVF doctor a couple of years ago. I actually went and saw the clinical director at a leading IVF clinic.

After chatting with the doctor about my history, he ordered some tests to be done. Everything came back completely normal.

Upon our return to his office, he had all the results, and he sat us down, and explained our options.

He suggested that we go straight to IVF, and not bother with anything else. I asked him why, and he said that even though they couldn’t find a reason for our infertility, doesn’t mean that there is not a significant problem, and he thinks our best hope would be IVF.

He explained that we could try some of the other methods, however the chances of success were extremely low. He said naturally, we statistically had a 1% chance of ever conceiving, given the duration of the infertility.

He said that if I were to take clomid (an ovulation enhancing drug, which has been linked to ovarian cancer) that it would only increase our chances to 2%, as I was ovulating normally and this wasn’t the cause for the infertility.

He said we could try IUI (intra uterine insemination), however that would only give us a 4% chance, as there were no blocked tubes, the sperm count was fine, and we have been “together” during the right times anyway.

He said IVF should give us a 40% chance. Now I felt hopeless at this point, as IVF was something I never considered that I may need one day. I was young (at the time of this I was 29) and healthy, and as so many doctors had told us, it was simply a case of our infertility being a complete mystery. I was sure it would eventually just happen naturally.

So I decided to probe the doctor, and ask him what the IVF process involved and what the side effects were of an IVF cycle, which many times, women are so desperate for a baby, that they don’t even consider the toll it can take on their physical and emotional well being.

He explained that first, I would have to start taking a hormone nasal spray and then begin injecting myself with more hormones to stimulate the ovaries – and sometimes, the ovaries can be over stimulated, resulting in a condition called hyper-ovarian stimulation. He said generally its just mild symptoms such as moodiness, bloating and weight gain, nausea, diarrhoea, and headaches.

He said there have been cases, where he has seen where the woman has been stimulated to a point where they have literally run out her egg supply, and she has gone into premature menopause as a result.

Now don’t forget, when we are born, we are born with our life time supply of eggs, and the whole reason we menopause, is because our eggs have run out – doesn’t that tell you, that if you are stimulating up to 30 eggs per cycle (when normally your body would stimulate 1 or 2 eggs per cycle) that there is not only a risk of early menopause, but also, what effect are all of these hormones having on our body? I have been told that there is a risk of cancers – however the IVF people say that this risk is increased as a result of being infertile itself, not as a result of the drugs.  However, having said this, just prior to going to see this doctor, my GP made me go get a precautionary ultrasound on my breasts, as the IVF drugs that they give you accelerate any cancers within your body.

After that, I would go in for ultrasounds each morning to monitor the ovaries and follicles, then I would be given an injection to trigger ovulation, and then brought in 2 days later, and be put under general anaesthetic whilst the eggs are retrieved – and lets not forget that this is a surgery, and with that comes a risk of infection, damage to your internal organs, such as your bowel or bladder, as well as the other side effects that come with anaesthetic in general.

A sperm sample is to be produced at this time.

Then the sperm and eggs are put together in a petri dish – which by the way, the doctor also informed me that if the traditional form of IVF fertilization was unsuccessful, then ICSI (where they inject just one sperm into one egg) should be considered, however there is an increased risk of gender abnormalities in ICSI conceived children – they seem to think that because ICSI eliminates the natural “survival of the fittest” selection with the sperm in this procedure, that that is where the problem may lie – now what they don’t tell you is that this is more of an experimental thing.

Obviously, they are crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, however they are going to put the sperm and egg together, and see what happens under the microscope – and generally they will fertilize (70-80% of the time), but it’s the next 24 hours that will let them see if there is a suitable embryo to be transferred.

The embryo  (I say embryo, rather than embryos, as this particular IVF clinic only likes to transfer one embryo back in, as most, if not all IVF babies are born premature and of a low birth weight – which they seem to think may be linked to the solution that the embryo is cultured in – and having more than one embryo, increases your chances of complications such as cerebral palsy, and breathing and developmental problems) is then transferred back into the uterus a couple of days later, and then I would have to start using a vaginal progesterone gel everyday to prevent the lining of the uterus from shedding, it an attempt to get the embryo to implant, all the while hoping and praying and trying to distract myself during that 2 week wait to see whether or not it has been successful.

Now the doctor explained, that there are links to breast, ovarian and uterine cancer – but this hasn’t been proven – of course it hasn’t been proven as this would damage the multi million dollar business of luring people in with the hope of helping them conceive a baby when they are in such a fragile and desperate state – one IVF procedure costs anywhere between $1500 at a public fertility clinic all the way up to $8000 for a private clinic – not including the cost of freezing any extra embryos, or if pre-genetic implantation screening is required, so this is a very lucrative business that relies solely on emotions – after all, a baby is a desire, not a requirement for a fulfulling life. 

There is also the possibility of early menopause if you were hyper-stimulated, and an extremely rare but possible side effect of that is also death.

I think a classic example of what can go wrong, is E! news presenter Guiliana Rancic. She suffered every imaginable complication throughout her IVF process. She became pregnant with her first cycle, and then sadly miscarried, and developed hyper ovarian stimulation with her second cycle where she was dramatically hospitalized and required a blood transfusion, and then she failed to conceive in that same cycle, and by the time she went to attempt her third cycle, she was given the devastating news that she had developed breast cancer at the age of 36, with no family history of it, nor having the gene for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ued2p5–AI

And the worst part is this – the average success rate of a pregnancy through IVF is just 30% (which is actually only 5% higher than a natural cycle), and to add to that, there is a 25% chance of miscarriage (this is the chance in all pregnancies – assisted or natural).

Now to add to that is this – if you are lucky and are successful in becoming pregnant through IVF, the babies born as a result of IVF, often have health problems,  that they won’t actually tell you about, because they say there hasn’t been enough evidence collected to suggest that this is the case. Now I’m not saying that all IVF children have problems – obviously that’s not true, as there are many healthy IVF children out there – but more than you realise do have problems, and the reason why its more that you know is this.

What has actually happened, is there hasn’t been many studies done on IVF children, as once the woman is pregnant she will generally go into the mainstream system, and any complications that do arise, will not be associated with IVF – and a lot of the problems don’t begin until after the baby is aged 1 year – why? Because the organs fall into place when the child begins to walk and that’s when a lot of the problems begin to appear, and because of the late onset of these problems (as opposed to it being diagnosed in-vitro or shortly after the birth), the correlation is not established, and therefore overlooked.

Just look at a few of the examples below:

A new report has found that children conceived using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) were generally as healthy as children conceived naturally, but they do have a higher rate of ADHD, depression, and binge drinking. Researchers say the overall risk of having ADHD in the population is between 3 and 5 percent, while the risk for kids conceived by IVF is over 27 percent.

There are two reports published in genetics journals which have found that children with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome were four to six times more likely to have been conceived through IVF or ICSI than not. The syndrome, which normally affects one in 15,000 newborns, can cause an oversized tongue and internal organs, high birth weight and a greater risk of some cancers.

A report in The Lancet, implicated IVF with a five- to seven-fold increased risk of a rare form of eye cancer known as retinoblastoma among children born in the Netherlands.

In an issue of the Journal of Urology, Johns Hopkins researchers concluded that babies conceived though IVF were seven times more likely to be born with a set of rare urological birth defects that include the formation of the bladder outside the body. Other case reports linked ICSI with Angelman syndrome, yet another rare condition that can cause developmental problems and speech impairment.

And a lot of the other problems don’t even surface until the child hits puberty.

Now a lot of the doctors will tell you that these problems come as a result of the infertility itself, and not the IVF / ICSI procedure. Fair enough, but doesn’t that in itself, act as a red flag to the potential parents? If all couples were made aware of the risks associated with IVF, and tried to consider the reason why they were indeed infertile, would they still choose to pursue it? Did they ever stop to think that there is a reason why they can’t fall pregnant naturally, and it might simply be because they cannot produce a normal healthy baby?

Who are they doing this for anyway?

7 thoughts on “IVF – ILL CONCEIVED?”

  1. This is so interesting. I work with a lot of women going through IVF. It has so changed the landscape of fertility and infertility. And what I find is that each person has to go through their own journey regarding exploring their own fertility. Now that IVF is with us to the extent that it is, it has become part of that journey. And it’s difficult because it feeds the sense of possibility when 20 years ago perhaps a woman/couple would have had to to go through a different emotional process of grief and letting go of an expectation which after all is with us since children. I am wary of talking about the things your talk about in your blog, with clients, not because they are not important, I think because somehow it feels punitive, there is a sense sometimes in the media, of how ‘could you want this so much you are prepared to risk the side effects’. It somehow compounds the sense of; shame, guilt? that women feel when they have fertility issues, add greedy/selfish/desperate? I hope that the work I do helps detox women of the drugs and manage that side of things in a responsible way, but we are increasingly aware of not exhausting peoples resources. And I see some fertility clinics taking an intelligent approach to this too. Your blog made me sit up and think. Should I be talking about this more? I work so closely with my clients on their own journey, step by step working through their options, and it reminds me that I need to keep all these things in mind.

    1. Thank you for your comments Francesca. I know that a lot of people who undergo IVF are generally in quite a state by the time they use it, and often as a last resort. I do think it is imperative that people are made aware of all of the risks associated with it, and be able to make an informed decision from there. I am not against it at all, I just think that it is not without risk and / or potential complication to both the mother AND child, and doctors really do have a responsibility to make these facts readily available for their clients. I know I had to probe my doctor for this information. You sound as though you are very compassionate of your clients needs, and who knows, maybe some sort of fact sheet should be made up to send home with the patients so they can better absorb all of the information on the process. Thank you for reading xxx

    1. Hi Fred, like I say, the doctors rarely disclose all of this information as it a big money spinner! With an average success rate of just 30%, and an average cost of around $4000, each client is worth around $12k. Something to ponder I guess… Thank you for reading xxx

  2. I am about to undergo IVf with my partner.

    I wanted to address a few of the points raised above.

    Whilst I agree that IVF is an emotional journey for all involved the ‘conspiratorial’ feel of your piece feels, and hear this the right way, that you have over thought this.

    The doctors and medical staff involved in IVF are highly trained specialists and this comes as a cost – would you really want to pay bargain prcies for someone who is helping you bring a new life int the world – professionals cost money – they are no mercenaries – they are helping people to reach their goals of becoming parents. Even on the NHS the cost s heavily subsidised (depending on your health authority) so the idea that this is purely a money making excercise is unfair on an already much maligned set of prefessional people who are trying to help.

    second, there is simply not enough data on IVf children to make generalisations about their health after birth, and even when comapred to control groups there are so many variables between children ven in the same town, born to the same clinic that the data is at best only indicative and not conclusive.

    Yes there are risks, and the tampering with before and after of the female body is not unpleasant nor is it an exact science. This is not the fault of the medical profession. All medicine is mostly Opinion and we do not have a magic cuase and effect solution to most biological conditions or prcesses – if we did we would have eradicated the cure for he common cold years ago.

    So yes IVF is tough, we do see increased rates of succesful pregnancy and yes there are dangers, side effects and complications. It is down to the individuals to mange and make good decisions.

    Your words are heartfelt and helpful but reading them cold, as I did, without context, there seems to be a subtext of ‘IVF is bad, a scam and run my mercenary quacks’. I think this is unfair and you need to present a more balanced view.

    No where have I seen a sign that says ‘IVF – babies guaranteed, no side effects, only £100’ – which is what you seem to want.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Mark, thank you for your feedback. I think everyones infertility journey is different, and everyone is entitiled to make their own decisions regarding how far they are willing to go to have a biological child.

      I wish you the best of luck with your treatments. Thanks for reading.

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