Thursday, November 20, 2008

IVF science: the illusion of control

Not be a downer but I read this article a couple of days ago in the New York Times linking IVF to an increased incidence of birth defects.

Over the past few days, I've been trying to come to terms with what I think of it.

My rational side says the data is based on a relatively small number of women. And as NYU's Dr. Grifo points out, the risk of a problem is relatively small (even if increased). My husband Will echoed these lines of reasoning when we discussed the findings.

But then my other side (my Lupron-filled, emotional, crazier-by-the-day side) latches on to the research as one more thing to worry about (like I need one more thing).

In the dark of night I have even thought that maybe I am selfish to go to such great lengths to conceive a child (who based on this research might be more likely to have a birth defect). I think, if I were a better person, I would just adopt (and truth be told, we'd like to, but we'd also really like to have at least one biologically related child).

In the dark of night I also have other opposite but just-as-loony thoughts, like maybe I can convince our RE to put back one more embryo than he is planning to, and maybe then at least one will survive. Maybe if I stop eating Splenda and aspartame it will all be ok this time. Maybe acupuncture will do the trick. Maybe if I eat organic I'll get pregnant. Maybe munching that ice cream bar (ok, two ice cream bars) last night will mean I won't. Maybe these anxious thoughts will doom the cycle. Maybe maybe maybe. It's a vicious 3AM spiral.

IVF controls much of what is usually a mysterious process. All of this micro manipulation and monitoring make it tempting to start to think that if I just take this action or avoid that action, somehow I can influence the outcome. It also makes it tempting to think that if we don't get pregnant/lose another baby/have a baby with a problem, maybe there is something I could have done that would have prevented it. That maybe it is all my fault.

And then at some point, I catch myself, and say to myself firmly:

You are not in control. You are NOT in control. You've got great science on your side, but you cannot determine every part of the journey or every potential outcome. Relax. Go with the process.

Repeat as needed.

(which will likely be often)



  1. Great post!
    I think a lot about that. Like you, I used to believe that everything i did could have power over the outcome of getting pregnant. I used to think that it was all on me, that even my thoughts were responsible for me never suceeding at conceiving. Until I learned that our problem was MFI. So, after that, I decided to let go more, not bear the whole responsibility for it. And it feels better. You are so right, there's only so much we can do. Trusting that we are doing our best and not obssessing over it. We already have enough on our plate.

  2. Control is truly an illusion in this process. I've come to the conclusion that at my advanced maternal age it's really just a crapshoot. Eating organic, giving up my one cup of coffee a day, etc. will not make any difference. All I can do is hope that one of the eggs they got yesterday is normal, that the nice embryologist is tending them with care, that I will have something to transfer on Sunday, and it digs into my lining and grows into a baby. It made me so sad when I was in Zabars a few months ago and saw a container of pineapple cores. Who would even attempt to eat that except infertile women hoping it will help with implantation.

    Enjoy your ice cream. Think of it as stress relief.

  3. Fantastic post. I have had all of those thoughts in the dark of night.
    I can be a control freak and surrendering to IVF is a challenge, especially b/c it is so controlled, so scientific just as you wrote about.
    Here via Mel!

  4. So true, you do not have control. That's what I hate about IVF.

  5. Fantastic post. Seems to be good advice for life in general, not just those doing IVF. Something I have to remind myself of regularly and vigorously, often at 3 in the morning.

    Came over from the Roundup.


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