I’ve been saying this for years, and now data reaffirms it—IVF often reduces the quality of life for people who use it to conceive.
IVF—in vitro fertilization—is a process by which a woman’s egg is fertilized outside her body. It involves monitoring the ovulatory process, removing eggs from the woman’s ovaries encouraging sperm to fertilize them in a laboratory. The fertilized egg is then transferred to the woman’s uterus order to create a pregnancy.
Of course, the fact that so many of its participants suffer says nothing about whether or not IVF is a good idea for any given person. But it should be the ethical obligation of every fertility professional—MD, nurse, crystal energy color healer, whomever—to explain this to prospective patients. Unfortunately, too many underplay the negative effects of IVF.
According to a recent study from Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, females going through IVF were:
* less likely to orgasm
* more likely to have reduced libido
* more likely to have discomfort during sex
* less satisfied in their relationships in general
The symptoms became worse the longer the IVF process continued.
What might be going on here?
Clearly, feeling pressured to have sex on schedule undermines the experience for most people. Because of work routines, this sometimes dictates that people have sex while getting dressed or rushing out the door on a weekday morning. Most couples have enough difficulty making sex meaningful after the initial blush of falling in love; investing an enormous amount of money and energy in baby-making can reduce sex to a mechanical activity that people then do regardless of desire.
What is “infertility” anyway? The World Health Organization says it’s two years of intercourse without conceiving (which sounds human and reasonable). But American doctors are pushing definitions of 12 months and even 6 months of intercourse without conception. In the American world of medicine-as-commerce, people nervous about conceiving are easy targets for fertility specialists with a broad array of (expensive) treatments. And so some people are getting involved in IVF way too soon. And this jacks up the anxiety level in a couple unnecessarily, affecting the rest of their life together.
We should give special mention to the drug that most women take during IVF, clomid (to encourage ovulation). It’s powerful stuff, and it messes up a lot of people—mood swings (particularly irritability and depression), emotional withdrawal, and reduced sex drive are not uncommon.
At the same time, IVF can cause long-term sex problems in a couple because sex-on-schedule (not to mention masturbation and ejaculation on schedule) can lead to situational erection difficulties which some men and/or women interpret as erectile dysfunction. Worse, some women believe that their male partners’ difficulty reflects ambivalence about conceiving, leading to some horrific accusations and defensiveness.
There’s also the public policy issue about tax dollars or insurance reimbursement paying for IVF when birth control, not to mention abortion, is so contentious. But that’s another issue.
When one of my patients or couples is desperate to conceive—whether naturally or with IVF—I urge them to take a month off from baby-making every six months. If they’ve been trying hard for longer than that, I tell them to take a month off right away. This way they can remember what their relationship was like before they started feeling pressured, and can remember why they wanted to have a child so much in the first place.
Sexuality often takes a hit during pregnancy; sometimes it recovers, sometimes not. Damaging a woman’s or couple’s sexuality during what might be the far longer process of creating a pregnancy is unnecessary—and essentially weakens the family the hoped-for baby will be born into.
Patients desperate to conceive respond to my suggestion incredulously: “Waste a month”? they exclaim.
Hardly. Reminding ourselves of why we cherish each other and want to build something together is never a waste of time.