Cash Panda: Changing and Reality

IVF will not guarantee you get pregnant. It just improves your chances. It still amazes me how many think it does provide guarantees. More than one friend insensitively asked me after the failure of the first embryo transfer: ‘but how did it fail? I thought it would just happen’. It doesn’t just happen.
I’ve heard a tonne of figures and they all swim around in my head now. From what I can gather, IVF doubles or triples your chances with each attempt. These are better odds, but as you can see, absolutely no guarantee. The reality is, the older a woman is, the older her eggs, and the less chance of success if she wants to use them. Men are lucky in that they produce sperm every day, as needed. The basic material that makes up our eggs ages with us. We haven’t yet overcome this particular biological limit. Who knows, we might.
According to my obstetrician, IVF will provide a 1 in 3 chance of pregnancy to full term with each attempt, on average. But as one smart arse points out, ‘the average human has one breast and one testicle’ (Des McHale). Yep, averages suck in their lack of applicability to individuals. Still, they’re all I have to cling to until I myself become either one of those statistics.
At 38 (using your own eggs) your chances of success drop to a still respectable 1 in 4. I’ve tried 3 times, and each has failed. I am still well within average statistics. The medicos don’t get ‘concerned’ or try anything different, until we’ve tried 6 times, according to another obstetrician. They don’t recommend you stop until around 12 attempts (I don’t plan to get to that point).
But here’s the rub: at 40 your chances drop to 1 in 5. At 42 they drop to 1 in 10. That’s right folks, our bodies are not immune to decay and that includes our eggs. Even with IVF, these are your chances.
Yes, we’ve all heard about the miraculous natural pregnancies in women in their 40s. But I’ve also heard about all those miraculous grandparents who smoked all their life and lived healthily into their 90s. They’re not averages, they’re not likely, they’re just part of the great set of stories we tell ourselves to help us deny reality. The only thing I might accept is that a woman’s body does seem to go through a last ditch effort to get pregnant in the pre-menopausal phase. BUT you need to be having regular heterosexual sex then, time it exactly right, and it seems, have already had a child. I’m not banking on those odds.
The figures for IVF do change significantly when using younger eggs, whether they are from a kind friend, or have been used to create an embryo that is currently on ice (there are both embryo banks and egg banks, just the same as there are sperm banks). A woman’s body can bear children into the 60s. Amazing really. And a woman in her 40s using the eggs of a woman in her 20s, will increase the chance with every attempt to 2 in 5 or nearly 50%.
They’re good odds. The question is just, how attached are you to your own genetic material? I once thought I knew the answer to that question. Now I’m not so sure. I keep hearing a pesky voice asking, ‘have you tried everything’? I honestly don’t know if it’s my voice or that of social pressure.
I feel extremely lucky that I live in a time in history when being a single woman at my age means, well not much at all, even for my current dream. It’s hard for my mum to comprehend, but I’m having as much fun as in my 20s. I feel especially lucky that IVF is an option for single women. I didn’t plan to end up where I am. We so often don’t. Until a few years ago I had visions of spending the rest of my life with my ex. I’m glad that didn’t happen. And glad that I have even more choices open to me than I did while in that relationship.
Some of those choices relate to reproduction. Not only can I choose to be a single mum. I can choose who the sperm donor will be, or whether to use an ‘anonymous’ donor (the child can choose to find out who they are at 18, so they’re not strictly anonymous). I can choose whether to continue trying with my own eggs, or whether to use a donor’s. I can even choose to go on the waiting list for an already created embryo.
These decisions are fascinating and have implications way beyond who my child may be, if all goes well. They have significant social implications, for our understanding of the long-held connections between sex, relationships, child-raising and what makes ‘our child’. These things are no longer necessarily connected.
I don’t think we’ve really thought through these implications. Do you?
By: Cash Panda
Image taken from Scorpions and Centaur‘s photostream on Flickr under Creative Commons Licence.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized by MsElouise. Bookmark the permalink.

About MsElouise

MsElouise is a community programs worker and feminist from Melbourne Australia. She likes to travel, write, rant and make people feel uncomfortable about their assumptions. She hopes to one day be remembered for changing the world just a little bit. Right now she does this by proving that teenage girls are a higher order of beings.

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