New test for likelihood of success in IVF

In Vitro Test Helps Gauge Success

A doctor at Stanford University has developed a prognostic test that helps women and their physicians make decisions about whether to go another round of IVF after the initial round fails.  They use data from the first unsuccessful round for the test, along with other factors that might influence success, like age, body mass index (BMI), hormone levels, and “quality” of embryos (whatever that means).

These tests can be hit or miss, but in light of the weakness of decision-making tools currently available, the super high costs of these procedures, and the emotional toll of another round of failure, I can understand why women would opt for this.

My understanding is that these IVF procedures cost something on the order of $15,000 for a single attempt, and it’s not often covered by insurance, so that’s all out of pocket.  Wow!

Do people really have that much money lying around that they can opt to spend that kind of money on making a baby rather than putting it toward adopting and raising a child?  I’m trying not to be judgmental (really), but it is an actual question I have.

I decided going into this that though I want to experience pregnancy and labor, I don’t want it that much to go through IVF or other treatments.  But then I was talking to a pregnant friend of mine who had gone through a miscarriage, and she was put on a type of drug to “stimulate” conception next time around, as she put it.  It’s not a procedure and it doesn’t cost gobs and gobs of money, but it’s just something to “help” your hormone levels, she said.

So it begs the question: would I consider something like that?  I’m inclined to say no, since if I’m not pregnant inside of a year, it’s really time to pass up the pregnancy issue and refocus all attention on adoption.  But if being on the “stimulator” for even a month gets me pregnant, shouldn’t I consider it?  I don’t know.  If it doesn’t work the first month, shouldn’t I give it 3 months?  How many shades of gray can there possibly be?!

That’s why I’m inclined to just say – give it a year and if it doesn’t happen totally naturally for me, let it go.  Building a family efficiently is my goal.  I don’t want to be too old for my kids’ life milestones.


Bribing poor couples in India?

India Tries Using Cash Bonuses to Slow Birthrates –

So this is a very interesting article!

The program here in Satara is a pilot program — one of several initiatives across the country that have used a softer approach — trying to slow down population growth by challenging deeply ingrained rural customs. Experts say far too many rural women wed as teenagers, usually in arranged marriages, and then have babies in quick succession — a pattern that exacerbates poverty and spurs what demographers call “population momentum” by bunching children together. In Satara, local health officials have led campaigns to curb teenage weddings, as well as promoting the “honeymoon package” of cash bonuses and encouraging the use of contraceptives so that couples wait to start a family.

India doesn’t want to be as heavy-handed as China, but the result of India’s hands-off approach is that the poorest areas are averaging 4 kids per family, and there’s rampant malnutrition.

Indian Family Waiting on the Bus
Image by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

Studies say that a woman’s educational background is one of the greatest factors in curbing the population explosion.  If you’re in school, seeking an advanced degree, you’re probably not getting married in your teens.  If you’re working and climbing a workplace ladder, you’re probably not home with lots of babies.

It’s all quite interesting from a cultural study perspective, but there’s a part of me that bristles at the cash payment approach.  How strange to be in a new bride’s shoes, having a government official advise me about when and how to have kids.  Such a strange concept.  These are door-to-door conversations!

“I want to tell you about our honeymoon package,” began Ms. Jadhav, an auxiliary nurse, during a recent house call on a new bride in this farming region in the state of Maharashtra. Ms. Jadhav explained that the district government would pay 5,000 rupees, or about $106, if the couple waited to have children.

I don’t disagree with the program per se, since the primary purpose seems to be education and empowerment, and I would definitely support being aggressive in that messaging and outreach.  But it seems wrong to basically bribe poor couples to do what the government wants them to do.

Getting the all-clear: immunity from diseases that cause complications in pregnancy

Just got my test results back, and I’m immune.

That was the last piece of the puzzle before going into this thing full-scale.  My doctor wanted me to have some blood tests to ensure that my last vaccine boosters were holding up so that I had sufficient immunity from rubella (German measles) or other diseases before getting pregnant.

I used to work in infectious disease when I was in college and for a few years after graduating.  The State of California childhood infectious disease program.  I had a few admin duties, but one of the things I had to do was abstract forms and reports of rubella-infected babies.  These were often women who were in the country illegally, crossing the border in order to ensure their children were born into US citizenship.  I think Mexico and Central and South American countries do not have requirements for these vaccinations, or they don’t have money for widespread vaccination programs.

The reports on these babies tore me up.  If the mom contracts German measles early in the pregnancy, it almost always results in a miscarriage.  But these women were far enough along to have a birth report – stillbirth, mental retardation, suspected blindness and suspected deafness.  I had to comb through all these reports, sometimes with pictures, in order to tease out the information needed to enter into the databases that reported back to the CDC or other agencies.  Of course, I thought about the moms, too.  They probably never knew until the child was born that they were exposed to rubella.

I was also at the State Health Department when the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine was first introduced into the childhood vaccine schedule.  I was still pretty young, but I do recall the extreme controversy about it.  The anti-vaccine folks were especially appalled at the suggestion that we add yet another series of shots to kids for something as innocuous as chicken pox, which is sort of a harmless childhood rite of passage.  Turns out it’s not so innocuous for adults and it’s extremely serious for unborn children – causing swelling of the developing brain, skin and eye disorders, other neurological problems.  Pretty scary stuff.  So the US decided to try to prevent serious complications in  adults and unborn children by working into the existing vaccine schedule, promoting “herd immunity.” The UK and other countries opted not to do so, but that was the rationale for working the new vaccine into the childhood schedule in the US.

Child receiving polio vaccine.
Image via Wikipedia

I’m definitely in the camp that is pro-vaccine.  After seeing what these diseases can do, and now that we’re so close to eradicating polio altogether, I think the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.  And all that stuff about autism?  In fact, the very well respected British journal that originally published the study (The Lancet) retracted the study years later because it was simply bad science and the lead researcher was found to have acted unethically in the study.  Too bad they scared the hell out of millions of parents who now unwittingly put their children at risk.

Given all of that, however, I know that parents are only making decisions they feel are in the best interests of their own children.  You do what you can with the information you have at an given point in time.  Me, I don’t need a booster.  I’m immune, which means any future fetus won’t be at risk.  That’s the information I got today.

Brave New World: no safe sex

Driving without a seatbelt.
Running with your eyes closed.
Stepping out into the busy street.
Trying to beat the oncoming train.
Having sex without protection.

Same things.

After being on very reliable birth control for more than a decade, I … stopped. I just stopped. I didn’t order that next pill pack. No condoms. No nothing. There’s a void in the medicine cabinet where I used to keep my pill pack. Nothing else has taken its place, so the emptiness of that tiny spot is appallingly glaring. I used to panic on that occasional fourth Sunday night where I would have forgotten to get a refill. YIKES! But there’s nothing like this feeling. I open up that medicine cabinet every day for the toothpaste or other things, so I’m haunted by the lack of pills right there in the lower left-hand corner. Gone. And it reminds me that I’m totally on the high wire with absolutely no safety net.

Independent from the issue of leaving myself open to pregnancy (which is what’s going on, by the way… we’re not at the point where we’re desperately planning every moment, like taking temperatures and scheduling ideal baby-making times), I’m discovering that I’m very wary of this new situation from the standpoint of just stopping something I was so adamant about for so long. I took a pill EVERY DAY for more than 10 years, and now, I don’t. It’s weird.

Birth control was so hammered into my brain from a young age that I thought people who got pregnant unintentionally were quite literally stupid. (Thought – past tense. I don’t universally think that now. Not really. Not most of the time.) I’ve been wanting kids for a while, but it was all very conceptual. I never thought about the tactical implementation, so to speak.

1. Stop taking the pill.
2. Continue sexual relations. Don’t stress.
3. Check for pregnancy occasionally.

Numbers 2 and 3 were on my radar, and number 1 is a no-brainer … except I never considered that I’d have some emotional transition to experience.

I wonder how nervous high wire people actually feel…

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=high+wire&iid=1499908″ src=”″ width=”380″ height=”247″ /]

I shouldn’t just ASSUME I’ll get pregnant when I want

OK, I know for a fact that I’m not the first person (or the last) to be grappling with What-Ifs as it relates to a possible pregnancy.

As a result of my often A-type personality (I’m a frequent A’er, not a constant A’er), I feel like I need to do some serious scenario planning and decide now about what I might do given the What Ifs. Here’s one: What if I don’t get pregnant?

I like to think this one is easy-speasy. Why, we’ll just adopt sooner! I like that we have been talking about adoption as a way to build our family from the very beginning. Frankly, I want it to be a way to refocus energy away from the potential disappointment and inadequacy that not being able to get pregnant might present.

Adoption isn’t just a field trip, though. Supporting kids who might grapple with depression and abandonment and trust issues… not to mention any physical issues stemming from unknown or uncertain biology or bad history… but I love the idea of taking a kid in and sharing the insane amount of love and support my and my husband’s families would give.

But how long do we wait? If I’m not pregnant by the time I’m 36, I don’t think I want to wait anymore. Besides, adoption can take a while.

* * * *
Point is, there are WAY too many unknowns, and my A-type personality is very uncomfortable with that. Hm, I feel as though there’s a lesson in there someplace for someone wanting to have kids…

Too many things, too many things


It’s starting to hit me: I’m going to try to get pregnant.  As in, have a baby.  A child.  Me.  Have one of those.

What’s the big deal? Everyone has kiddos, right? It’s only 9 months, boom, you’re a mama, you figure it out as you go along, get support wherever you can, blah-dee-blah.

NO! This is heavy stuff. I swore off marriage and kids for years. Then, I wanted kids. That biological clock – that’s so real!  And we had always talked about starting to “try” after my 35th birthday, and since that’s at the end of August, we meant trying in September. We happened to schedule our somewhat delayed honeymoon in September. And I just magically happen to have the last pill in my birth control pill pack recently which times conception at the ideal time… in September.

September. As in, a few weeks from now. D’oh!

This will be somewhat incongruent, I know, but stay with me… Do you know that scene from Boogie Nights where Honey-Tits… what’s her character name? Julianne Moore’s character? Anyway, where that character is in the room for hours and hours with Rollergirl doing cocaine and she just paces and paces and keeps saying, “Too many things, too many things, too many things…”? Well, I’ve been having a few of those moments in the last 24 hours around this concept of finally facing being pregnant and having kids in the VERY near future. My mind is racing, my heart rate accelerates, my anxiety creeps up.

(I TOLD you it was going to be incongruent, so don’t be weirded out that I just presented getting pregnant as an analogy to a coke scene in a coming-of-age tale set in the porn industry in 1970s San Fernando Valley.)


I’ve been wanting this a LONG time. For the record, my reasons are:

1. I’m a woman, a member of the half of the species who can actually do this. So, if I don’t, well… I might as well be a man.

2. Coming out of my 20s, it’s less and less about ME.  I started looking outward a bit, recognizing family more. In my 20s, I desperately tried to get away from family. Now I want back in, I see the value, and I want to contribute. I want to recreate the wonderful family parties I went to when I was a kid – I want to do it with the next generation, with my brother’s kids (someday), with my cousins’ kids. Promote and share all that quirkiness with another generation!

3. I love my parents. I want what’s best for them. I think being grandparents would actually be good for them – keep them young and active, keep them sharp, lend a lot to their quality of life. And there is so much history they have, and my own grandparents have, that should not be lost with me. I grew up in a story-telling tradition, and I need someone else to know about my mom coming to America, my dad’s experience as a fire fighter, my grandma’s stories, my grandpa’s love. That rich history needs to be told again, and added to.

4. Finally, I truly feel like I should make – create – produce! – progressive people to counter the rabid conservatism and right-wing nuts that are all over the place. They seem to procreate like rabbits (and oh look at that, another teen pregnancy out of wedlock, surprise surprise, is the Hypocrisy Arrow pointing that way again?!). Oh yes: You’d better believe I’m carting that baby to gay marriage rallies and when the kid is older, we’ll make signs together to take to anti-war demonstrations. People are quick to point out that my kids may very well choose to be the Alex P. Keaton’s of their time, but NOT IF I CAN HELP IT.

Um, so what was I saying?

Oh yeah, I’m a little freaked out that I’m going to be trying this soon. Look, I’m not a complete loon. I’m totally well-balanced, well-educated, well-funded, well-loved, and just plain well, as in health. I’m just freaking out a wee bit.