Thursday, September 12, 2013

fantasy land

There was an excellent op-ed in the New York Times this morning about the "magical thinking" of infertility treatments. If you haven't seen it yet, go check it out. The authors wrote very eloquently about the reality of infertility treatments, and it hit very close to home for me. It also brought my mind back to the post that I wrote several weeks ago regarding the release of the latest infertility statistics - specifically my last point about the evolution of science.

We can't deny the strides we've made with science and technology in every aspect of health. In fact, just yesterday I watched a video about an app that cardiologists are using to monitor patients' heart rates. All you do is place your thumbs at particular points on an special iPhone case that connects to the app, and it instantly registers your heart rate and pulse. Amazing, right?

But science and technology aren't cures - at least not for everything (yet). We haven't yet found a solution to bringing down cancer rates. There is no cure for AIDS. Hell, it's 2013 and we still have to endure sadistic, expensive tests like MRIs and mammograms to help diagnose injuries and diseases. We've come a long way, but we aren't nearly where we need, or want, to be.

This goes for infertility, too. The most recent scientific "breakthrough" in reproductive medicine is using time-lapse photos to help aid REs in choosing the best embryos, a practice that other areas of medicine have been using for years. Less than half of IVF cycles performed worldwide are unsuccessful. Far less than half. We still have individuals and couples who are in the category of "unexplained" infertility - about 30 percent. We're a long way from using the term "implant" instead of "transfer."

We stopped treatment before enduring IVF. There were a number of reasons for this, but the largest deciding factor was the physical one. Did I want to put my body under the amount of stress that an IVF cycle requires, for a less than 40 percent chance of working? The answer was: hell no. The authors of the op-ed say it best: "Ending our treatments was one of the bravest decisions we ever made, and we did it to preserve what little remained of our shattered selves, our strained relationships and our depleted bank accounts."

Ending treatment isn't for everyone. Some people want to exhaust every possible avenue, and I respect that. However, I also value throwing in the towel. It isn't giving up. It's not a sign of weakness. In fact, it's the exact opposite of that. It's the essence of strength. It's making the choice to do what's best for you and your family. It's about recognizing what your limit is and sticking to that.

And it's not about turning your cheek to medical intervention. (I also think it's incredibly important to attend conferences such as the one mentioned in the article to stay abreast of the changes and challenges with treatment.) Instead, it's about understanding that medical intervention can only take you so far. There's only so much that doctors and scientists can do.

For now, at least.


Pamela said...

Thanks, Katie, for your blog and for the link to the op-ed. Miriam and I want very much for daylight and truth on the reality of the statistics. Equally important is giving couples who are ready to move on the emotional and social support needed to do so. That's been sorely lacking in our pro-natal, "don't give up" society. Before the op-ed, Miriam and I agreed to join other women to discuss the taboos that exist around infertility and share our stories --live and in person. We'd love for you and others who read your blog to join us Sept 27 in NYC. I wrote about the event here on my blog:

It Is What It Is said...

It is one of the things I appreciated most about Aisha Tyler's disclosure...she talked about being given a 5% chance at pregnancy and how so many would focus on that but how she and her husband focused on the 95% chance of nothing.

It is powerful and with everyone knowing someone who had their baby through ART, it is quite alluring. Couples should be required to sit with an advisor to discuss how far they should go in THEIR case, someone who is their advocate not on the payroll of the clinic.

Mali said...

Wonderful comment on the article, Katie. So good to hear other voices supporting this.

I've just written one too, if you're interested.

KeAnne said...

The best RE I ever had advised us to stop pursuing IVF w/ my body b/c the chances were so low of it working with all the stuff I have going on. Though shocking, I appreciated her honesty and agree that patients need to think carefully about how far they are willing to go and what their odds truly are.