Thursday, July 02, 2015

What are My Chances of Getting Pregnant?

“What are my chances of getting pregnant if I do IVF?” is a very common question patients ask me. The honest answer to that question really is-“I don't know”, and it really doesn't matter. Let me explain why. There is a distinct chasm between short-term thinking and long-term thinking. It isn’t possible for anyone to predict the chances of success for an individual patient in a single cycle. While we are able to tell you what the success rate in our clinic is, we cannot reliably extrapolate these figures to individual patients.

Three Reasons Why Our Answer Doesn’t Matter

Patients have to be able to accept the fact that we aren’t fortunetellers; and they need to learn to be able to live with this uncertainty. The quality of our answer will carry a little more sheen once we have done a treatment cycle for you; because we can then see how well you respond and how good the quality of your embryos are. The more data we have, the better the quality of our answers. This is a fundamental law which is true in any biological system

Secondly, let’s assume, I quote a figure of 20% or 60%; this guesstimate is totally irrelevant and immaterial for the individual patient. If she doesn’t get pregnant, her success rate is 0%; and if she gets pregnant, it's 100% (or even 200% if she has twins!)

Finally, the reason it doesn't matter is that if she chooses to do nothing (her default option), her chances of getting pregnant would be far less as compared to her doing IVF. The one certainty is that doing IVF will improve her chances of having a baby, regardless of whether that increase is 5% or 40%

The Limitations

Even we as doctors have limitations when it comes to answering certain questions, and it’s important that patients be sophisticated enough to understand these limitations. When patients ask what their chances of success are, most IVF doctors will happily pull out an arbitrary figure out of their proverbial hat (in the manner that magicians pull out doves or a rabbit from their hat), in an attempt to appease their patients.

When More Translates to Better

The higher this number, the happier the patient, even though the number has no resemblance to reality. This is also why clinics juggle and juxtapose their success rates. However, the truth is that it’s GIGO (Garbage in-Garbage Out) and these figures have absolutely no correlation to an honest answer to your specific question- “What are my chances of getting pregnant?”

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