Monday, February 18, 2013

IVF failure stories


Most IVF websites are full of IVF success stories . They highlight patients who did IVF treatment , and are now happily pregnant ! Such stories do serve a useful purpose – they give hope to infertile couples that it's possible for them to have a happy ending as well ! These stories carry a lot of weight, because they are first person accounts from some who's “ been there, done that “. If patients can get firsthand information from another  patient ( who knows how to reduce the pain of the injections; and how terrible the two week wait is ) , they are able to prepare themselves much better for their own treatment.

However , I wish there was a separate section for IVF failure stories also ! It's a fact of life that not all IVF cycles will be successful – and the majority of them do fail . It’s very hard to cope with this failure ! These stories would help patients to do so, so they can pick up the pieces of their shattered dreams, and continue their quest to have a baby. These stories help them to prepare for the worst, so they become emotionally resilient ; and can start considering Plan B options such as adoption or childfree living, instead of being paralysed into inactivity when the IVF cycle fails.

Unfortunately, it's very hard to get patients who have failed IVF treatment to share their experiences . They think of themselves as being failures - not just as their IVF cycle as having failed . They bottle up their emotions and keep their hurt to themselves. I think this is a shame , because a lot of their knowledge and hard-earned wisdom and experience would be very helpful to other people who go through the pain of experiencing a failed IVF cycle. Equally importantly, these stories would give infertile couples a much more balanced , realistic perspective of what IVF treatment is like . The truth is that not all IVF cycles have happy endings – and that even if the cycle fails , at least you can have peace of mind that you received good quality care - and that life continues on , even if the cycle fails .

IVF failure stories ensure that patients have realistic expectations ; and remind them that IVF cycles are more likely to fail than to succeed. The fact that other people have dealt with IVF failure successfully will help them cope better in case their cycle fails. Patients do learn to bounce back after a failed IVF – it’s not the end of the world, or the end of the journey !

These stories would also make my life as an IVF doctor much easier , because I spend a lot of my time counseling patients after the IVF cycle has failed and these real life first hand accounts would provide a useful resource for patients. Reading these stories would boost patient’s morale in case their cycle fails, by reminding them that other people have dealt with the failure successfully !

I think patients would also have a lot more respect for IVF clinics which published their IVF failure stories. One criticism against IVF clinics is that they paint a very rosy picture – they overpromise , because they want to attract patients for treatment. This means that they aren't always forthcoming with the truths, and sometimes hide the downsides of IVF treatment. An IVF clinic which had a section of IVF failure stories would mean that they had the patient’s best interests at heart, and were willing to portray the complete picture - the unvarnished truth about IVF - warts and all ! Any intelligent patient would respect such a clinic. One reason IVF clinics are worried about putting up failure stories is that they feel that patients may get put off as a result of these stories, because they may discourage patients. I think we underestimate the intelligence of our patients ! They are smart enough to learn the truth – and the more open and honest we are with them , the easier it will be for clinics to cope with their disappointments in case the cycle does fail. A common complain patients have is that when they come for the first consultation, the IVF doctor is very sweet – but when the cycle fails, their IVF doctor abandons them.

I think all of us learn a lot more from failure, rather than from success - we learn more from adversity than from our good times. Both IVF patients and clinics can learn a lot from IVF failure stories.




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