Sunday, March 30, 2008

Long Term Effects

Do you ever worry about the long term effects of fertility treatments? I'm talking about the physical effects here, not the emotional effects (maybe fodder for a different post). It is something that has been loitering in the back of my mind for months now. I say loitering because I don't want those thoughts there. If I am to keep trying this I can't really worry all the time about what the drugs, the process or the science will do to me or our future children long term. But the thoughts are there just the same.

There are so many unnatural pieces to IVF-all of it really-and I'm not talking about this in a religious sense. We (the women) are given higher levels of hormones than we would normally produce on our own. Our ovaries are first suppressed and then forced to produce more follicles in one month than we might produce over 15-25 months. The lining of the uterus is then built up with hormone supplements to prepare for implantation.

And then there are the antibiotics taken as a preventative measure without any indication of an infection (does anyone ever worry about immunity here?), the autoimmune suppressants, the steroids and the list goes on and on. Not to mention the invasive egg retrieval procedure and countless ultrasounds and blood draws. Can it be healthy to have a camera taking pictures inside you so often? Then there's the question as to what fertilization in a culture medium does long term, whether accomplished "naturally" or through ICSI. What about cryopreservation and thawing?

And yet the doctors don't talk about this much because nothing has really been proven. IVF has been around for quite some time now. The first "test tube" baby was born in 1978 and she will be 30 this year. That is 30 years of possible observations of the effects of IVF on the resulting baby and the hormone-stuffed mother.

I'll admit I haven't taken the time to do much research on what researchers HAVE discovered on the long-term effects. And part of me has no interest in this. I am (sort of) blindly plowing forward just hoping this will work. Willing to take whatever long term risks might be there because I'm more afraid of the long term risks of not having a family and not realizing my dreams. I have a hunch that many women undergoing IVF feel the same way.

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Today's photo journal challenge theme is:





I leave you with some photo's taken by B in Washington D.C. about a year ago. I was busy at a conference in a dreary hotel basement while B did some sightseeing in our nation's capital.



14 comments:

Spicy Sister said...

I too, am trying to put those nagging thoughts out of my mind.

I am a bit of a "crunchy" girl - I like natural things, organic things, I believe in nature and the body's ability to heal itself. Doing ART feels so incredibly removed from all of that.

I am reading Embryo Culture by Beth Kohl. I am in a part where she is wrestling with all these questions as well. It is kind of good to read about someone else struggling with those questions - it allows me to look at them without feeling like I need to take them on personally as well.

Rhonda said...

curious discussion...but, my personal opinion is that you cannot think about that, or let it consume you.

I think I may try to read the book mentioned above by spicy sister.

love the picture looking up at the flag - that is super cool.

s.e. said...

I am in the same spot as you. In the back of my mind, worries are there but I try to supress them. I hate that there are so many unanswered questions regarding IF. But I think you are right to assume that the long term effects would not be great enough to make the decision to stop treatment even if we had answers.

PJ said...

Very thought-provoking post.

I don't worry so much about myself, as I do the child I will conceive and any long-term physical effects that might occur. Although I have a bad history of ignoring my health, so maybe I should rethink that.

That is sort of mindblowing, that you are producing 15-25 months worth of eggs in one retrieval!

It's all such a gamble, but to have a beautiful child as a result, must be worth the risk. I bet if you asked those who have been through this successfully, they would say the benefits outweigh the costs.

Io said...

Basically what everyone else said - it's something that makes me worry, but I try not to think about it. I may regret it later.

luna said...

I think about this a lot but I don't let my mind go there. as someone who reads labels on everything, it's willful denial to ignore the warnings on all those packages of meds. all the risks and uncertainty. so much they don't know. I think about how desperate I am for a baby that I would ignore all of that. but at the same time as pj said, the potential benefit outweighs the potential risks... ~luna

JJ said...

I have definitely thought about it--but its one of those"I will do what it takes to have a child" type of thought--BUT the more time we spend between treatments does make me realize how much I DONT like being on gazillions of hormones.

PS I find it funny that my word verification has the word "Sex" in it
Sex, what's that?

mrsyak said...

I tell myself that the proven benefits of bearing a child/children outweighs the unproven risks of IVF. I could be way off, but I MUST tell myself this to sleep at night!

Ahuva Batya said...

The consistent message from my clinic is "hell, we don't even know why most of this stuff works, but for some reason it does." So I've always assumed that the research as to consequences for the whole thing is not really robust.

Optimistic said...

ahh - yes! I always wondered, but never really worried or looked into it. But I always thought whatever the effects where/are - they would be worth it if IVF worked.

Waiting said...

Sometimes I wonder if God made my body the way he wanted it, and should I really be messing with it? Should I be trying so hard to meet my own selfish need to procreate a mini me, etc. (this one more emotional than physical)? In the end, who knows. I think God enabled the brains who developed this science, and in the end, I'm happy to use it. I hope we're not hurting ourselves or creating immunities, but I guess there's always that possibility. I feel like maybe we would have seen these effects in other women who've done IVF in the past, though?

Meg said...

I am honestly very lucky to have such a small amount of hormones and medications added to my monthly cycles. I do think that this is something that is in all of our minds but the price we pay, I guess...

Maria said...

I definitely worry about the long term side effect of all these drugs. I know that they say it can't cause cancer, but I feel like how couldn't it.

For now, I'm going through this blind. I don't want to know too much about it. But I have a suspicion that it can't be good.

Jen said...

I try not to think about it. It hurts my head to think about that - like thinking about how the steak or chicken appears on my plate at dinner.