Wednesday, March 25, 2009

statistically speaking

At my acupuncture appointment on Monday, I asked about the next stages of the process: namely, when it would be best to do acupuncture again. The therapist told me I could schedule one for retrieval day, but, in her words, "that's really best for women who have a difficult retrieval, and it doesn't look like you'll have to deal with that." So, she said, it would be great to schedule acupuncture on the day of transfer. Apparently, the common practice is to do one session immediately before and one immediately following the transfer. "Statistics show that there is an increased chance of success with acupuncture on the day of transfer," said the therapist, and then we went on talking about other things, but that little phrase got stuck in my head.

"Statistics show."

Here's my initial reaction to that phrase: "oh, yeah? Well statistics show that I should have been pregnant three years ago, so f&#k statistics. " (Note that I did not say this out loud to my acupuncturist.)

For someone who studiously avoided taking statistics in college, I've become familiar with an awful lot of them over the past three and half years. You have, at most, about a 25% chance of getting pregnant every month. By the time you're in your 30's, it can go down to 10%. 90% of women get pregnant within a year. Of those who didn't get pregnant in a year, 80% get pregnant in the second year.

30-40% of infertility problems are male; the same are female; the remaining are either unknown, or both partners.

At my age (36), there are widely varying statistics on the success of IVF procedures. At my clinic, with our diagnoses, we're looking at a 50-60% chance of success.

And the statistics I've been reading (fearfully) lately: between 10-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. 80% of those happen in the first trimester. After the first trimester, the miscarriage rate is about 3%. Only 1 in 200 pregnancies ends in a stillbirth or neonatal loss (after 20 weeks).

So. At the front end of this game - the conception part - we're starting off on the wrong end of the statistics. Male (a bit controversial, but probably mild) problems and female (pretty damn serious) problems. That places us someplace in the 20% of the 5-10% who didn't get pregnant in the first year OR the second year and then have problems detected in both partners.

See? F&*k statistics.

How am I supposed to trust these numbers? Statistics show that we are now in the better range. Our problems (morphology and endometriosis) can be very effectively dealt with through IVF. Statistics show that this procedure will probably work, and the thing is, I have no idea how to believe that. Part of me does; part of me looks at the impersonal things like side effects and follicle size and number of follicles and rampant family history of getting knocked up in one's late thirties and says, "hey! We've made it past the shit part of the statistical mountain, and now we're on the way down! We're dealing with our problems, we've finally gotten aggressive about it, we're no longer in denial, and everything we're doing now is designed to deal exactly with what's wrong with us. Why be pessimistic? Why not believe that this will work?"

And the other part of me says, "I'll tell you why. Because statistics have been hitting us over the head for three and a half years, and I'll be damned if I fall for that line again."

On the whole, I do feel remarkably hopeful about this process. But every once in awhile, like late at night when the moon is bright and I can hear the rain, I lay in bed and think about statistics, and I worry. It's awfully hard to trust the same thing that's brought you down so many times.

I remember something my mom says - and whoever she's quoting, it's been a mantra for me for a long time - "everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, then it's not the end."

I'm trying to trust my mom on this one. Statistics definitely show that she's right on a very regular basis.


  1. Funnily enough, statistics can show whatever you want them to show. You just have to rearrange the data. I operate on the "couldn't hurt" principle. Statistics are BS!

  2. I have violated statistics at every turn... usually for the worst, but most recently for the better.

    Your mom's mantra is great.

    Good luck with the fertilization and transfer!