Tuesday, 12 February 2013

When IVF comes back to haunt you

My morning routine of toddler dodging was interrupted by a knock at the door.  The postman handed me a special delivery letter and my stress levels increased as I was sure someone had caught up with our practice of the dark art - that is otherwise known as family finances.  But instead it was a letter from the infertility clinic we used successfully to get pregnant…and unfortunately the stress levels weren’t going down any time soon.

It was exactly 2 years after my due date, and we had 4 weeks to confirm if we were going to refreeze the 2 embryos we had on ice for a hefty fee or dispose of them.

We can’t really afford to refreeze them if we’re not going to try for more children…which leaves us having to make a difficult decision in a few weeks – are we ever going to do IVF again?  And I can tell you, it’s a much harder decision 2nd time round.

Do we want any more children is only one of the fundamental questions we need to ask ourselves.  Do I want to go through IVF again, and is it right that we have two frozen embryos in the first place?

It is fortunate that we have twins, because we can stop if we want and know we already have a wonderful family.  Do I have the energy or the money for another one?  Can my relationship or mental health withstand a third child?  The jury is out.

When contemplating this, I had a disturbingly deep thought – one that hadn’t crossed my mind until now.  When a sperm fertilizes an egg and make an embryo, which is essentially a person in its first stages – does that mean it has a soul attached?  And if so, are there two souls stuck in the universe somewhere because of us?  This made me quite sick and I started to side towards disposing.  Is it just me who thinks this stuff? *quick Google search*  No thankfully.

Anonoman felt that if we did it again, we should go for “fresh” embryos as there’s a higher chance of success.  But this brings on another big decision.  Do I want to put myself through the drugs, and the egg collection again?  My IVF experience was very positive first time round.  I did produce 20+ eggs which certainly put my body under a lot of stress but could it bring on early menopause?  Apparently not – read http://www.medindia.net/news/IVF-Treatment-Does-Not-Lead-to-Early-Menopause-in-Women-Study-36251-1.htm   Wouldn’t it be better for my health to use the ones we already have?

There’s also my age to consider.  I’m 35 this year and I always said that I’d stop trying in my mid 30’s.  So if we’re going for it, it needs to be this year.  My head feels like a pressure cooker.

I also met a woman recently who believes that her breast cancer was as a direct result to the hormones used in her fertility treatment.  According to a recent Telegraph article, young women are 50% more likely to develop breast cancer in the 15 years after IVF. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9285015/Young-women-having-IVF-treatment-at-higher-risk-of-breast-cancer.html   Although I’m not considered young, there is a history of hormone related cancer in my family.  Would I be taking an enormous risk?

As first timers, our desire for children was so great that everything else took a back seat when it came to IVF.  But now the few weeks we have to decide on round two, in no way, reflects the complexity of the issue.

One thing I do know is I’m unequipped to play this life or death game, and am inclined to count my two beautiful blessings and leave the rest up to Mother Nature.  Ironically this is only made possible because of Sciences helping hand


  1. I am trying to restrain myself about bad science - not sure how good a job I will do!

    1. That report in the telegraph is carefully written to be as alarmist as possible. You will note that part way through it says 'independent experts warn that the results may be explained by...' and the article also reports that having your first baby after the age of 35 doubles the risk - so if IVF allows you to have a baby earlier, you are getting a net benefit. So honestly, it's not a consideration.

    2. I am sorry that your friend feels IVF gave her breast cancer. It is human nature to look for cause and effect, the problem is our sensing mechanisms are terrible and we ascribe cause to things that have nothing to do with the results (e.g., the traffic lights turn green, I cross over and get knocked down, I ascribe the cause to the light turning green). It is very unlikely that the drugs caused her cancer. They may have increased her existing genetic or environmental risk, or they may have had no effect at all, we have no way of knowing. So the sum of that is that unless you have been tested for BRCA1 and 2 (and if your family history is strong you should have been), been found positive and advised against pregnancy itself (which raises your estrogen levels for 9 months) doing IVF is not a contributing factor for you.

    The only consideration should be what is best for you and your family for the long term. Will you be a good family of 5 (or 6 - even if you do single egg transfer it is possible it could split)? How much do you want another baby?

    Btw given where you are I really don't think your husband is right, a frozen cycle is MUCH easier on your body and less complex logistically, and you got pregnant with twins the first time which indicates your embryos were high quality - you shouldn't undergo another fresh cycle unless the frozen cycle fails and you realise you really DO want another baby.

    Hang in there, it is a tough decision but don't get freaked out by all the alarmist stuff out there, it is almost all just bad reporting.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts Thalia. I think the more information the better, and your comments provided interesting reading and a new perspective, as well as a steady hand and kindness - much appreciated

  2. Just want to say that i could have written this (except for the twins) I dont think you are ever free from IVF. We have 2 embies left and our baby is only 9 months old so its do you go for it or let them go and save for a fresh cycle in a few years time. We cant pay for storage, embies to be put back and another fresh cycle if needs be. Its tough

    1. It certainly is. I would certainly recommend tring to come to a desicion before you're forced to. All the best Kayleigh, with whatever you decide is best for you