Monday, February 28, 2011
Why follicular studies ( ovulation tracking ) can be a waste of time
Many gynecologists advise ovulation tracking as the first line of "treatment" for infertile couples.
This seems to be sensible advise. You just have to go for vaginal ultrasound scans which help you time precisely when you ovulate. You have sex at this time, and since eggs plus sperm = baby, you get pregnant in the first cycle itself ! How can this fail - especially if you are young and all your test results are normal ?
Actually, the tragedy is that patients have very unrealistic expectations from follicle tracking ! The success rate , even in a perfect cycle , is only about 10 % ! Remember that human reproduction is not very efficient, and just timing sex does not help ( unless you've never had sex at the right time earlier !)
Doctors often forget the downside of ordering follicular studies. It can be very stressful because you need to take time out of your office work duties to get ultrasound scans done . Even worse, it can play havoc with your sexual life. We all know that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus - and this difference gets hugely exaggreated when you are battling with infertility, because you and your partner seem to be on completely different planets as regards having a baby . Most men would rather let nature take its own course - and having sex frequently in order to have a baby sounds like fun ! They just cannot understand why baby lust seems to have taken over their wife's life - and why you are obsessed with stuff like eggs and ovulation and fertile times !
Doctors can be very casual about advising scans and they underestimate the additional stress this puts on the marriage ! Husbands hate having to have sex on demand - they feel they have become reduced to becoming sperm donors who have to perform when ordered to do so. This takes all the fun out of sex, and adds to the marital disharmony when the wife refuses to have sex on any day other than the day of ovulation because she wants her husband to "store up" the good sperm ! This can often be the last straw which breaks the camel's back , because infertility already stresses the couple. Also, having to lie with your legs up in the air for the scans can be quite embarrassing and humiliating - and having a doctor insert an ultrasound probe into your vagina on a daily basis can be a major turnoff !
My advise is that one cycle of ovulation tracking is enough. This can be useful because it teaches you to correlate the scan findings with your body's signals , such as your cervical mucus and ovulation pain . Scanning also allows you to make better use of OPKs and the free online fertility calculator in future cycles, because you understand what's happening to your body, so you do not have to medicalise baby making sex in future cycles and track ovulation discreetly at home !
However, if your doctor advises repeated follicular studies, please get a second opinion ! Otherwise you ( and your husband) are likely to get fed up and frustrated before getting pregnant !