Monday, September 16, 2019

World Childless week - starts today - my comment on IVF

I'm not sure if you've heard about it, but World Childless week starts today - Sep 16 2019.

If you want to take a look at all the things happening go here
And also here on Gateway Women by Jody Day
If you want to read some stories from people who are childless go here at Walk in Our Shoes

As for me, I have a few things I would like to point out. As a childless woman over 40, I've met my fair amount of odd and weird moments in both professional and personal life. Most of them, I think, are based on not knowing reality and why people (both men and women) are childless. Sure, there are a people who are childfree by choice (please note that this would be two various words to described a similar state - i.e. no children present in a person's life - for some it's childfree, and this would imply a choice and these people have chosen to not have children, whereas the childless is more of a general description without a bias implied. Simply put, there are no children by that person. And this person would've liked to have children or at least the option of children.)

I loved finding this site where it was pointed out "Childlessness by Circumstance" is a big number of the childless people.  It was a helpful tool to bring when talking to my friends who are childless and thinking a lot about this in terms of "finding someone" and "maybe I should try and have a baby on my own" and other questions people over 30 who are not in a committed relationship think about. And also it was something to at least bring to the discussion on why it was not as easy as saying "you don't want children" or "if you want children, why don't you have then". Indeed, why don't I, or them?

It was also something I would like my friends and family who have children to consider, that it might be difficult if you don't meet your soul mate when you are 19-25 but later, or never, in life or if you get divorced before conceiving these children. And that it would've been a lovely thing to meet someone and have a relationship with them and then "have sex without protection" and have a child together. But it didn't happen that way.

Since I'm not that interested in talking about myself and why I am in the situation I am in, I'm going to focus on one aspect that I think would benefit from getting some attention. The overpromise of IVF "as a solution of childlessness". Let's get one thing clear, it's not as easy as a 100% guaranteed as "you have IVF and you will get a live baby that looks like you". This is something that people seem to think, and is repeated by the media articles reporting on famous couples having babies into their 40ies among other things.

When you really look at success metrics of IVF, in the US and other clinics (like NHS in the UK or Sweden) the important factor is to remember that the metric is not covering all the couples that go in for an IVF.  Why? For the sake of this post, I'll go into detail.

The success rate of IVF depend on a few factors. First of all, it's only based on the couple (or single woman with a sperm donor) who get at least one viable embryo to implant. If you don't get an embryo, you don't end up in the metrics. (This will make the metrics "better" since only the embryos implanted are counted but people who start a cycle but don't make an embryo aren't counted.)

Secondly, there's a lot of metrics to mention "positive pregnancy test". Let's be clear, that is not the same as getting a successful live baby in the end of the gestation. It's the positive HCG test after implantation, which is after 6 days and followed for a couple of weeks in the pregnancy. This is also called a "chemical positive pregnancy test" and isn't always correlated to a live baby in the end (because there are a lot of pos HCG test that fail and end up in miscarriages and then the woman isn't pregnant after week 12.)

So, in short - not to take up too much time here - the current "general success rate of IVF" is less than 25% when if comes to having a live baby after one cycle of IVF. This is without the people who get a cycle of IVF who doesn't get an embryo to implant. So "the real success rate" is even less than 25%. But you rarely see this mentioned in the media. And they don't really go into the idea of egg and sperm donor leading to a different kind of success rate (usually higher since they are chosen for their good qualities, but that leads into the idea "what is your embryo" and who donated egg or sperm).

The overall success rate of IVF is that after 6 cycles, more than 60% have a live baby. That's still a good amount of people who don't have a baby (3-4/10 couples). And that is after 6 cycles which is a fair amount of time and shots in the world of a relationship. 6 cycles are 2-5 years, depending on how successful you are with getting embryos every cycle, implanting them and then getting a miscarriage, and then waiting for the good time to start again. It's not for the faint hearted, that's very clear. And that's before mentioning that average cycle of IVF in the USA is between $16,000-23,000. It's cheaper in Europe, like in Denmark the charge between $9,000-15,000 for a cycle, still a lot money depending on who pays the medicine/hormone shots.

And brings me to the detail that a few of my friends have talked about in regards to the childlessness and tryin for a baby, especially through IVF.

The strain of doing IVF to your relationship. Not only is it a strain and difficult idea to get around as in "most of our friends just decide to have a baby and they get one or more after having sex",  but for them it's turning into a chore. Sex as something you do at certain times, checking hormones levels and timing, and with expected results. And then with the IVF, there's a lot of shots that need to be taken at specific times and later on in the cycles there are pills at specific times. And some of these shots are needing cold storage, and others are needing help to be able to push them into the part of the "back of the hip" which isn't reachable for a single person.... And then it's the additional emotional toll that they are not worth it as persons but only as parents to their child(ren). To be trying for having a child in your image and knowing that anything less is a failure.... yeah, not the greatest part of being a part of a relationship.

All in all, after hearing a lot of this and wanting to share it - I would be happy if people didn't just say "way don't you do IVF" when realizing you are childless. It's just not that simple.