Monday, December 7, 2009


Before my last IUI, I spent some time looking for success stories on the interweb. I found plenty, but I also found some CRAZY people. In one forum I found a post from a person who claims that if her success rate for IUI is 15% the first cycle, it's 30% the second cycle, and 45% the third cycle. If that's really what you meant, infertile-lady-whose-internet-identity-I'm-making-a-minimal-effort-to-protect, you need to have a chat with your RE. If this understanding of your chances comes from your RE, your RE needs to have a chat with Intro to Statistics at his or her local educational institution. If this were truly the case, then all I'd need to do every time I wanted to get knocked up is participate in a series of 6.67 IUIs. Hells yes, I can do that! Anything for a baby, right?

Now, I use statistics in my research, so might be better informed than the average person. I understand that when you have a series of independent (the outcome of one is not affected by the outcome of another) events with a fixed chance of occurring, the cumulative probability is the same as the individual probability. For example, the chance of getting heads when you flip a coin is the same if you flip the coin once, or three times, or a hundred times: 0.5. I also understand that success rates are not about me, an individual case. Success rates are about samples from populations of people thought to be representative of my situation. I don't have a success rate--not yet, anyway.

Infertility is all about statistics, which can be dehumanizing, discouraging, and comforting. For example, I find the one-in-seven (or five, or four--depends on the woman's age) figure for number of infertile couples in the US comforting. But I find the breakdown into male factor, female factor, or unknown factor dehumanizing. Maybe because it separates the couple into individuals, allowing blame to be ascribed. Or take the chart on my pregnancy test box that lists the percentage of women in their sample who were pregnant and tested positive at different days (e.g., 5 days before the expected day of their period). I find those numbers both discouraging and comforting. They provide for a gradual descent into sadness (I tend to test on days 12, 13, 14), but they also make me feel pretty comfortable having an enormous drink on day 14 even if my period is late (which it always was on Clomid). The likelihood that there's anyone in there to give a damn is vanishingly small.

The statistic I'm keeping in mind for the present is 50% per cycle, the number my RE cited when asked about my clinic's IVF success rate. I know it doesn't mean I have a 50% chance of getting pregnant if we do IVF. I certainly know that if the rate is 50% per cycle, that doesn't mean the rate for a second cycle would be 100%. I'm not a crazy person. But it's a comforting number. It's starting to snow here, and I've got no chance of getting pregnant for at least two months, so I need some comfort.

In other news, after hanging out with my best friend I was pleased to discover that some things associated with pregnancy are still boring. I'd like to make a general announcement: I don't care about your birth plan. Regardless of who you are, your birth plan is boring to me. (With the possible exception of my own hypothetical future fetus--your birth plan interests me very much.) Hearing about someone's birth plan (then my OB was like blah and I was like blah and....snoooooooze) is reminiscent of hearing about someone's wedding table decor in way too much detail. Then we had pale green napkins, but not like sage but like a warmer...snoooooze. Nothing whatsoever to arouse my interest. This might be one of those things that changes when you get pregnant. I hope to find out.

1 comment:

  1. A very good friend of mine, working for the same company with the same academic background (we've actually worked at 2 companies together since finishing our postdocs at U of M a few years ago), sentence alert! pregnant with her SECOND baby since I've been trying for my first. And, yeah, the details of the OB appointments make me want to A) punch a kitten and/or B) fall into a deep sleep. I counter with details from my most recent RE appointment for fun and for sport.

    And as for stats...I wish it was cumulative, then I'd be 150% pregnant by now. It's precisely because I know each cycle is an independent experiment (albeit one with some variables changed or controlled from prior trials) that I am able to do multiple IVF cycles, in vain hope of getting on the right side of statistics just once...Vegas odds, anyone?