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Things I have learnt from and about IVF
February 18, 2012 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Things I have learnt from and about IVF.

(apologies for linking to two long Crooked Timber posts in a week, but they're kind of on fire over there.)
posted by escabeche (23 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Embryos are not babies

To paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson, who put it as succinctly as I've heard: "Nobody thinks an acorn is the same as an oak tree."
posted by cmoj at 9:16 AM on February 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


Very nicely written piece. Like cmoj, I appreciated her view on embryos and implantation failure, especially coming from someone who admits it "makes [her] a bad Catholic" but has the first had experience of IVF.
posted by maryr at 9:19 AM on February 18, 2012


I really like that article. I have often wished fertility were something you could donate, like bone marrow. I've been blessed with too much. A guy could pretty much leave his underwear next to mine and I'd get knocked up.
posted by PuppyCat at 9:44 AM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is only one thing a woman on IVF can do to improve her chances of getting pregnant: be born with a lot of good quality eggs and don’t spit them out too soon.

Quitting smoking wil improve IVF success rates. Also being overweight is associated with lower IVF success. So that's at least two things a woman can do to improve her success rate that are nominally under her control.

Then there’s the Monte Carlo fallacy, which you hear often in IVF circles; ‘I have a one in three chance of getting pregnant each cycle, so if I do three cycles, I’m bound to get lucky’. Again, wishful thinking. Each cycle re-sets the likelihood back to a third. I don’t like to imagine how many cycles I would have to do before my numbers revert to the mean!

I love that her heading for this section is "Most people are statistically illiterate – probably by choice" and then she demonstrates it.
posted by euphorb at 10:26 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Embryos are not babies

To paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson, who put it as succinctly as I've heard: "Nobody thinks an acorn is the same as an oak tree.


AT my house we were just talking about inviting a bunch of anti-choicers to a what would be billed as a fundraiser "chicken dinner," and then serving them all hard-boiled eggs.

Women receive an endless stream of unsolicited advice – largely from other women – that amounts to an implicit and unintentional blaming

True for so much more than this situation. People, in fact, receive this kind of advice. Saying you're "helping" and "just pointing out facts" doesn't make the advice wanted, practical, useful, or good. Too often, she's right, offering unsolicited advice is just a way of minimizing our own need for compassion, ignoring our own imperfect knowledge and experience, and avoiding the need to show full respect by finding some cause to attribute a shitty roll of the dice to.
posted by Miko at 10:39 AM on February 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


During IVF, women have frequent trans-vaginal ultrasounds to see how their ovarian follicles are developing and to measure the lining of the uterus. I have them two or three times a week. It was a big deal for me when I started as it’s basically a dildo with a camera in it, wrapped in a condom, smeared with very cold lubricant, pushing quite hard against the cervix. Towards the end of the cycle it’s quite painful. At any point along, it’s awkward


This is true for IUI, too. Painful. Jabby, invasive, awkward, uncomfortable, and painful. And this is for something I want and have volunteered for.

Not only that: they are not cheap. This not-covered procedure can a few hundred dollars. So, again: the crime in Virginia is not just being a woman, and a slutty woman, but a poor slutty woman.
posted by e to the pi i at 11:31 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oak trees don't root up their saplings or eat their acorns. Chickens, similarly, do not boil their eggs. We (humans) do -- and we also have no problem chopping down oak trees and cooking chickens.
posted by michaelh at 11:38 AM on February 18, 2012


Oak trees don't root up their saplings or eat their acorns. Chickens, similarly, do not boil their eggs. We (humans) do -- and we also have no problem chopping down oak trees and cooking chickens.

You demonstrate RAW's point about the extreme mental gymnastics people do to maintain their mythologies. An acorn is not an oak tree. An embryo is not a person. An egg is not a chicken. It's that simple.

And, actually, if you want to play associative games, many of an oak tree's acorns will rot at it's base, feeding the tree or outcompete a sapling that take root too close to it. Also, a rooster will sometimes kill and eat chicks.
posted by cmoj at 11:46 AM on February 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


You demonstrate RAW's point about the extreme mental gymnastics people do to maintain their mythologies. An acorn is not an oak tree. An embryo is not a person. An egg is not a chicken. It's that simple.


They are just bad analogies. We don't treat chickens any differently than eggs other than for practical reasons and the same goes for trees. If a chicken egg is an embryo (fine to eat) and a chicken is a human (also fine to eat), what's the point?
posted by michaelh at 11:52 AM on February 18, 2012


It seemed incredibly sane and calm, and then I realized she was writing from Great Britain.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:55 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The chicken eggs we eat don't have embryos in them.
posted by bleep at 12:09 PM on February 18, 2012


My third and final IVF was over two years ago and resulted in my son. Her post, though, brings me right back. I hope she is successful, however she defines it.
posted by Leezie at 12:45 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


The chicken eggs we eat don't have embryos in them.

Depending on where you source your eggs, this is not true. I've gotten eggs from the farmer's market that when I cracked them open they had a tiny red dot, which is the embryo. I eat them anyway.

Some people, however, are more adventurous with their embryo eating. Behold balut.
posted by winna at 1:03 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


A guy could pretty much leave his underwear next to mine and I'd get knocked up.

Heck, with me it was pants flapping on a clothesline.

If women could see that little blob of cells that is an embryo, they'd go, "'Ew' get it out of there." If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:21 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]



Chickens, similarly, do not boil their eggs.

As a former chicken keeper, I've got to tell you that they may not boil the eggs, but they don't particularly give a shit what happens to them either. They do sometimes break their own eggs and eat the shells. Very rarely do they attempt to brood their eggs. Almost always they just lay the egg and walk away to let the embryo die from the cold, an option that a lot of women might emulate if it were that simple.
posted by pbrim at 1:33 PM on February 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


Domestic chickens might be a bad example; some breeds are broody and others not so much thanks to human meddling. But among wild birds which are maintaining their population wihthout help from humans TYVM, ovophagia is pretty common. They only don't boil their eggs because they don't know how to cook. They most definitely will eat them if the supply of other food goes to crap, because it really doesn't make sense to try to raise young when you're having trouble feeding yourself.
posted by localroger at 4:08 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chickens, similarly, do not boil their eggs. We (humans) do

Uh, speak for yourself. I, for one, have never boiled my own eggs.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:39 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seven rounds, two perfect little monsters.... and I agree with much of what she has said. Although, the grief and devastation of thinking you are pregnant and then finding out you're not is not expressed in her article. Physically IVF was fine for me. Emotionally, very, very hard.

If someone tells you that you have to go through 7000 needles, 5 billion ultrasounds, and a regular jolly rogering with a dildo ultrasound for fifteen years but that you will be guaranteed a baby at the end.... it would be a walk in the park.

Instead, you go through that, never knowing if it will happen. And my two little chickens cost almost $100, 000.

ToddlerTaff was a frozen embryo... our last.... we suspect things happened in the microwave when they were defrosting her. She's an goofball that one.
posted by taff at 7:50 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Uh, speak for yourself. I, for one, have never boiled my own eggs.

Of course not, thats inhumane!

Poached or sunny-side up, on the other hand...
posted by cacofonie at 7:54 PM on February 18, 2012


Mrs MM and I did 4 rounds of IVF and I mostly remember large numbers of sad looking women in waiting rooms and the very occasional happy one.

I decided I would try and keep my sense of humour about things even though it was expensive, emotionally tiring and, certainly for Mrs MM 10x worse because of all the invasive rootling around and hormones. It was also, ultimately unsuccessful.

Anyway, besides moral support, the bloke's job is obviously to, ahem, produce, the sample. In a little room. They provide motivational literature. The place I went also had a DVD player where you could bring in your own special movie. And it turns out the chap before me had brought in some vid called something like Buttloving Big Babes.

And I just though to myself: well, that's where you're going wrong right there fella.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:16 AM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, a lot of the eggs I eat are fertilized, but that's totally quibbling anyway and everyone is well aware of that. The point: an egg, while potentially a chicken one day if many other conditions also fall into place, is empirically not a chicken.

Almost always they just lay the egg and walk away to let the embryo die from the cold

I did a lot of research about 10 years ago on a single town which involved reading every edition of the newspaper for a year in the 1870s. One of the most common events noted in the newspaper was abandoned babies, usually found dead from exposure. Sometimes the baby was found alive and held by a church as a foundling while some kind of placement was sought. It was abundantly clear that in an age before effective contraception and safe abortion, walking away from unwanted babies and leaving them to what may befall them was an entirely predictable and matter-of-fact response to a pregnancy the mother was unprepared to support.
posted by Miko at 9:44 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm laying here next to my beautiful 3 month old son and daughter. It took us 5 rounds to finally have them. The successful round came from a cycle with frozen embryos. I often joke with my wife that if they pass some sort of law that gives embryos the same rights as every other citizen, I would assume our 3 that are still frozen will get SSN's and I'll be able to claim them on my taxes.
posted by jbelshaw at 7:53 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thing I learned from ART: Thank god I have phenominal insurance and live in a state that covers it.

The IUIs/ultrasounds/Ovidrel shot weren't that bad. It was the friggen HSG that was a real "pip". Doc didn't know cervix was "hooked" and jabbed me really hard with the catheter and hit the wall. The most unbelievable, stabbing, pinching, holy shit moment of my life. No labor nor epidural hurt like that. I screamed where my husband heard me out in the hall where I screamed out THAT HURTS! Doc went "oh ok" and again, it hurt. I said 'do it again and I"ll kick you in the face". Sort of like Steve Carrell screaming out KELLY CLARKSON in 40 Year old Virgin.

I can laugh at it now but back then? Fuck no.

Oh there's the other thing I learned. Excrutiating pain makes me violent.
posted by stormpooper at 6:43 AM on February 21, 2012


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