On the "Dark Side"

July 27th, 2012

We were intrigued by a recent article published by Psychology Today with the foreboding title “The Dark Side of Fertility Treatment.” The authors, both consultant psychologists in a neonatal intensive care unit, believe there is a dangerous disconnect in the education and reality of health risks associated with assisted reproductive technology (ART).

The catalyst seems to be new reports on high-dose stimulation and what it can mean for mother and, often, babies. Some specialists argue that mild stimulation results in lower pregnancy rates and, subsequently, more cycles of IVF. While high-dose stimulation can  have a higher rate of success, there may also be an increased likelihood of multiples. And that, the authors, say is where reality sets in for hopeful parents. They “wonder if doctors in this highly competitive, multi-billion dollar unregulated business are incentivized to spend the time necessary to help couples reach a considered understanding of ART.”

When the goal is to have a baby, some IVF patients hope they’re only lucky enough to have more than one. The primary focus is on getting pregnant. It can be difficult to see past that hurdle - and to realize that the eventual pregnancy itself is not without risks might be equally hard to comprehend.

The fact is that no pregnancy is without risks, whether it is a singleton or quadruplets, and whether it occurs naturally or with the help of IVF. Education, not only about infertility treatment options, but about the subsequent pregnancy and baby or babies, is key. We believe the best option is always the adherence of the well developed, clear guidelines which are currently in place.

Patients must be their own best advocates when making decisions about their treatment plans and the number of embryos to transfer. They need to feel confident that they have been fully counseled on the risks - and be prepared for what they will do if the unexpected occurs.