The Pain Olympics

Let me present to you two different couples and what got them pregnant:

Woman A takes a pill prescribed by her gynecologist, uses a home ovulation test, has timed intercourse, and lands pregnant first month of the prescription. They don’t even meet with a specialist.

Woman B does a long IVF cycle with genetic testing, necessitating freezing all embryos. So, one cycle for birth control, one for stimulation and egg retrieval, one for recovery and waiting for results, one to prep for a transfer of an embryo, then the actual embryo transfer. The first transfer is a success.

Which couple had it harder? I would guess more people would think Couple B.

Welcome to the Pain Olympics.

Here’s one reason Couple A could feel that Couple B had an easier time overall. Couple B are working with a limited supply of sperm, say because it was frozen before a medical treatment resulting in permanent loss of fertility. They know from the beginning that they are doing IVF, no question, no trying. There’s no year of dwindling hope while they agonize over what might be right or wrong. Couple A has been in the mix for at least a year. Woman A has regular cycles and no reason to chart or worry or get into a specialist earlier than a year so it’s an agonizing wait. It turns out she was never ovulating, and they were wasting time, but they were told to relax and just enjoy the trying.

Meanwhile Couple B know they will never have kids any other way. There’s no secret hope that things could be easier next time. And if the sperm or eggs were frozen in the past due to something scary like cancer they aren’t going to feel like they are better off than Couple A.

Here are just some of the factors that personalize a path through treatment:

  • Expecting no issues and being shocked by an inability to conceive, or having a known diagnosis at the start (e.g. previous cancer treatment)
  • Small or unknown chance of natural conception, or complete impossibility (e.g. blocked tubes)
  • Presence, or not, of own genetic material
  • Factors which delay or cancel treatment (e.g. recurring ovarian cysts)
  • A woman’s remaining egg stores (whether or not you have time to work with, regardless of age)
  • How many attempts and how much calendar time it takes to work

There are a staggering number of combinations of circumstances that create virtually infinitely many “journeys”. Trying to compare them is complete folly, and completely human.

It’s a pitfall we have to be really careful to avoid and can really affect how an infertility support group accepts people of all experiences. Each group has to find its own way, and groups are just a collection of people who hopefully cycle out of the group as they get pregnant, so groups change over time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *