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IVF Myths: It's "Last-Ditch" Fertility Treatment

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on October 05, 2011

When it comes to fertility treatment, IVF (in vitro fertilization) is indeed the most costly and invasive technique available. But it's also very successful -- in many cases, the only thing that works -- for helping men and women who might otherwise not have a chance at having biologically related children.

I recently ran across this blogpost that nicely sums up a few of the myths about IVF. The author, a physiologist and reproductive endocrinology researcher, also has personal experience with using IVF to build her family.

I'm going to write my own responses to Dr. Kathy D's debunking of the myths she calls "most common" through the next few posts.

Myth #1. IVF is a last-ditch effort to become pregnant

She's correct in her responses to this myth! But I'll add that for many patients, IVF is definitely "a last-ditch effort."

For some infertile patients, like those described by Dr. Kathy D., IVF is the only way conception is going to happen. In those cases, heading straight for IVF first is sensible. But for most fertility patients, making the choice to use IVF instead of, say, intrauterine insemination (IUI) is definitely a step that feels like the "final straw" in a series of attempts. In fact, this patient page on "Preparing for IVF: Emotional Considerations" puts it succinctly, saying that for most people, IVF is "the last, best option for having a child."

No experienced, qualified fertility specialist will tell you that IVF (or any other treatment) will definitely result in pregnancy. But it is true that IVF, in particular, helps us get around the greatest number of obstacles and barriers of the most severe nature. So it's no wonder everyone thinks of it as "last-ditch"!

When to recommend IVF for a fertility patient is part of the art (and I don't mean Assisted Reproductive Technology here) of medicine. Some of my colleagues will recommend IVF a little too soon in a patient's fertility treatment journey, while others might wait until it's only going to work with a third-party involved (most often, an egg donor). It takes years of experience on top of specialized training, plus an excellent laboratory team (like the staff I'm grateful to have with me at Houston Fertility Center) to know when a patient's family-building needs will be best served by IVF versus other techniques.

So this myth is actually reality for some patients. And while your attitude and feelings toward whatever medical treatment you choose is important, and timing is a crucial factor in fertility treatment success, in the end, whether it's "last-ditch" or not -- IVF works.

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