Myth: IVF Always Works

Friday, April 29, 2011

In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I am choosing to address the myth that "all" infertile couples have to do is IVF and that it is a sure solution to their childlessness.

If you aren't familiar with our story, last March/April we went through a cancelled IVF cycle, and in April/May, we went through an IVF cycle but lost our one embryo.

So, long story short, IVF does not always work. Myth busted.

And as a result, it really bugs me when people who are uneducated about the IVF process go around perpetuating the myth that IVF itself is a sure-fire way to make babies and that it is an easy no-risk solution to getting a baby (and, on the flip side, that people who don't choose to do IVF have a harder time dealing with infertility).

Let's start with the first sub-myth, that IVF itself makes the babies and so if you do IVF, you will definitely have a baby. Here is what normal America fails to realize: there are some pretty smart people in charge of the eggs and sperm in the IVF lab, but news flash, they are not GOD, who is the creator of all things. Those doctors can mix your eggs and his sperm, but they cannot FORCE fertilization. Those doctors can even inject the sperm into the egg, but they still cannot FORCE fertilization. There is nothing they can do to "make" embryos and certainly nothing they can do to cause the embryos to grow and divide. Because that is up to God, whom they are not. (Even if you think for the amount you are paying for a given cycle, they should be.) And that is the reason why IVF is not a sure thing: as much as science would love to claim that IT can make babies, that is up to God, who cannot be put in a box or scrunched into a statistic. He has a plan for each of us, and that plan does not guarantee each couple, who pin their hopes and dreams on IVF, a precious child from that treatment. Of course He allows many beautiful children to come into the world through that avenue, but it will not be that way for everyone. It is the same concept that chemotherapy does not cure everyone's cancer. Science would like to say that the chances of recovery are good, but they are not guaranteed.

But because everyone thinks IVF is a sure science thing, that leads them to think that IVF is an easy option to elect. And some go so far as to say that if you choose NOT to try IVF, your cross of infertility is heavier than someone's who has tried IVF.


I challenge people who perpetuate these sub-myths to educate themselves before blurting out such nonsense, and maybe do a survey of IVF veterans. I guarantee them that ZERO percent of couples who have gone through IVF (even if theirs worked) will say that it was easy. I guarantee that ZERO percent of couples who have gone through IVF will say that the think their infertility journey would have been harder than if they hadn't tried IVF.

There is NOTHING easy about IVF. It is not easy to clear off enough space on your dining room table for the meds, syringes, sharp boxes, and alcohol pads you will go through during your cycle. It is not easy to explain to your boss why you have to randomly leave work at weird times every other day or come in late sometimes. It is not easy to schedule your activities on your injection times. It is not easy to schlep yourself to ultrasounds and bloodwork nearly every day to check on your progress, even if your progress is good. It is not easy to write a check for an amount that would nearly buy you a small car (because chances are your insurance won't cover IVF, even though it will cover plastic surgery) and hand it to someone who can't guarantee that your money will have anything to show for it (see above). It is not easy to cry on your husband's shoulder when you worry that all of the meds, appointments, sacrifices, and treatments will be for nothing. It is not easy when you wake up from egg retrieval and have to brace yourself for how many eggs the doctor found. It is not easy to be at home, wondering if any eggs have fertilized and longing for them to be healthy. It is not easy to see your RE's name pop up on the caller ID the next day and tell you how many embryos are growing (even if there are several). It is not easy to know that after your embryo has been transferred back within you that there is nothing else you can do to help this little one find a spot to snuggle in and continue to grow. It is not easy to know in your head that all your symptoms could be from the medications but want to believe in your heart that they are because the embryo has implanted. It is not easy to sleep the night before your beta. It is not easy to see some spotting and convince yourself that it is implantation, while you know it likely is not. And it is not easy to see that the nurse is calling to tell you the results of your beta blood test (especially, in my experience, when the result is negative).

Even if a person's first IVF is wildly successful and they give birth to a healthy baby (or more) 9 months later, I guarantee the rest of the planet that their journey was not easy. The emotional cost of IVF is just as much, if not more, than the dollar cost. They still worried and dealt with insecurity and anxiety and uncertainty. There is no way you can go through that process and come out on the other side (positive or negative) and look back and conclude that it was an easy time, as if it was like getting a haircut.

Because everyone who gets close enough to really learn about IVF knows that there is no guarantee that there will be a healthy baby at the end of the IVF road. And that in itself makes it an incredible difficult path to take.

Which leads me to my final sub-myth: that people who choose not to try IVF have a harder time shouldering infertility than those who do try it. Any way you slice it, infertility is a journey in the dark. We are all in the blackest of pits, clamoring for a handhold that we can grab to hoist ourselves into the light. The infertility pit is equal-opportunity. It does not distinguish those who are pursuing modern treatments from those who aren't. We are side by side, and we are all reaching up into the unknown, trying to find our way. It pains me to hear this sub-myth because all of us in the pit SHOULD be hoping that we all get out eventually, no matter which handhold we find. One person should not be pointing to the handhold they are eyeing and tell everyone else that that particular handhold is better than the ones everyone else is reaching for. God has placed a different and unique handhold for everyone, and none is better than another.

Because nothing on Earth can ever guarantee us a child. IVF does not always work, no matter what people think. IVF is not the easy way out, nor does it make the infertility journey any less thorny.

What does always work is believing that God has a plan and will redeem your infertility struggle. I am living proof of that truth!

Of course to find out more about infertility you can go here, and my thanks to RESOLVE for sponsoring this week dedicated to increasing exposure and education about infertility.


TeeJay said...

Very well said. People that think IVF is easy are a lot of the same people that tell us to "just adopt", yeah, because that's easy. Great myth busting post.

Bridget said...

Great post and so true! I love when people think IVF is no big deal and an "easy option" it was the hardest thing I have ever done.

Melissa said...

So very true! Peoples ignorance really bother me when they tell us "oh, you can do IVF and have a baby" or when they tell us about some celebrity did IVF & has twins. Yeah...

But you're right. God is in control & has a plan for all of us.

Great post!

mrskateski said... How true. You are amazing!

Krissi said...

What an amazing post! I did 6 IVF cycles and know all too well that it was NOT easy. I am happy to have found you!

Krissi said...

I also wanted to say that I would love to share your success story on my blog! Here's the link:
Thanks in advance!

myjourneythruinfertility said...

"The infertility pit is equal-opportunity. It does not distinguish those who are pursuing modern treatments from those who aren't. We are side by side, and we are all reaching up into the unknown, trying to find our way."

Thank you for saying this . . .some days I feel like my journey is "less than" those who have gone through other treatments and then when I get clarity I realize no matter how you slice it this is a difficult journey regardless of where it takes you.

Thanks for a great post:) Oh and my RE insinuated to my husband that HE (my doc) was GOD. Yea that didn't go over to well with us!

Tami said...

Thank you for sharing your story. Although IVF wasn't an option for us in our infertility struggles, I can't imagine it being an "easy" process at all. There is no part of the infertility path that is easy.

God bless!

Jess said...

That's the sucky thing about IF...there is no EASY option.

This is a great post revealing a lot of truths about IVF.

God is in control!

Anna said...

I came across your post and felt compelled to comment. I agree with 99% of what you said, having myself undergone 7 failed IVFs. I have lost my faith in God because i have been through hell and still nothing. Unfortunately, He did not deem me worthy of a happy ending and I have to live with that. At 39, my only option is egg donation...something that is very hard to accept.