Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Book Review: What To Do When You Can't Get Pregnant

There was no way I was ever going to be able to resist a book called What To Do When You Can't Get Pregnant (discovered whilst browsing in my local library). I thanked providence. This was it. A sign. Surely I held in my hands the very secret that we have all been searching for.

In fact the book's subtitle is more accurate: The Complete Guide To All The Technologies For Couples Facing Fertility Problems.

Basically it tells you what your medical professionals are likely to offer you once you've come to the conclusion nature is not going to cut you any slack.

I went away this weekend so this was my train-journey read, I wasn't all that keen on wearing my reproductive deficiencies on my (book) sleeve so, with the help of another fly-jacket I devised a masterful plan.

Now you see it:
Now you don't:
Oh, I'm all about the cunning.

The book was conceived (geddit?) by a woman undergoing fertility treatment, and she coerced her Doctor (who is also the father of two children as a result of fertility treatment) into co-authoring. The author’s avowed aim is “a book written in a conversational voice from the patient’s perspective describing what to expect during fertility treatments.”

And this is I suppose my first issue with the book. It doesn't seem to know if it is a conversational chat from one infertile to another or a serious discussion about medical procedures. So it sometimes jars as it strays from the scientific to the subjective. For example discussing the ideal candidates for egg freezing we have:
  • Under 35
  • Good health
  • FSH normal for age

and ...

  • Believes family is important.

Huh? Bit of a leap isn't it? And yes, whilst you probably wouldn't freeze your eggs if you didn't have strong views about a family I doubt it actually affects your ability to successfully complete the process.

And there were other chatty asides that annoyed me. Particularly the constant rolling-eyed jibes at our menfolk. It used phrases like "convincing your partner to see a urologist" and suggesting you take your partner with you to appointments because "he'll feel more involved in the process." The implication being your partner is trudging along dutifully but really we both know it is only ever the women who really want this.

After three and a half years of being unable to get pregnant I feel like a bit of an infertility veteran. So there were great swathes of the book that I only skim-read because they were either irrelevant (male factor infertility), old hat (try giving up caffeine, exercising more, cutting down on alcohol, acupuncture - check, check and check again), or been there, done that (sex, IUI).

So it was the IVF chapter that was most relevant to me. And it was good. Really clear, and gave me a good idea of what to expect (mainly endorsing what I had read elsewhere, but there were a few new useful nuggets). The author put a massive emphasis on staying as flat as possible for the 72 hours after the transfer; cautioning against sitting up for anything other than meals, not showering for three days and only using the stairs a maximum of once a day (which sounds unworkable unless you have a bedroom upstairs and downstairs!). Those of you that have had IVF, was your doctor as cautious about post-transfer activity??

To be honest I stopped reading after the IVF chapter.

A quick flick through the rest and I discounted the chapters for various reasons, 'what next' (donor, adoption, childfree living) I decided I could deal with at a later date if necessary. 'Specialist information' seemed relevant to some folk - fighting x-linked genetic diseases, designer babies - not applicable just now. 'What to tell your child regarding its conception' - reckon I've got a good few years before crossing this particular bridge (and at the moment can't envisage it being a problem - if I do have a child through IVF I see absolutely no reason for keeping it quiet like a shameful secret).

Overall, it was readable, clear and had some good information. However it didn't quite live up to the promise of its title - turns out there is no magic thing to do if you can't get pregnant.

So interesting if you are about to have fertility treatment. But otherwise I'd recommend Lustrum by Robert Harris over this book any day.


  1. I didn't know that we had to stay as flat as possible after transfer! And no showers for 3 days either? I'm going to be one bored, cranky, smelly lady in a few weeks.

  2. Every doc seems to have their own theory. Some require bed rest for a few days, some for 24 hours, some not at all, and some encourage regular activity because increased blood flow could help. Much like most of IF, I think nobody really knows. LOL.

    Nice book cover switcheroo.

  3. I agree with lost - each RE has their own theory and I don't think anyone really "knows" the right answer! My RE requires a full 24 hours of bed rest with potty breaks only. AND, it's worked for me twice now (one FET and one fresh cycle). (Now if only I could maintain the pregnancies we would be in business!). On my first IVF I decided to do the 72 hours of bedrest, and whether that had anything at all to do with the outcome I will never know, but that cycle I got a BFN. So, I always recommend 24 hours of bedrest since that's worked for me. As we all know though, everyone's different! Happy decision making! And loads of good luck with your IVF!!

  4. The conversations I had confirm what's been said - nobody really knows. Despite the leaps in medical progress in this area, it seems that implantation remains the great mystery in this whole business.

    The doctor I spoke to said that there was nothing to show that days of bed rest made any difference. I was told to lie down for an hour, and then just take it easy for the week. Can't say yet if it worked or not...

    My very non-medical logic is that, if implantation can happen when people conceive normally and don't stay in bed for a week, then IVF shouldn't be any different. Unless of course the reason for the infertility is not conception but implantation. In which case I suppose it could make a difference. Not sure that made things any clearer...

    G x

  5. Yeah, nobody really knows but most FS I've spoken about it to slotted some sort of bedrest in.

    I kinda agree with G above, but I never argue with time spent lazing around being taken care of :)

  6. My nurse told that I'm expected to be in the bed for a full 24 hours after transfer, that's it. I was totally freaking out about this because of my job, which you already know is a total bastard about time off. I know I will do the full 24, but I am just going to wait to see how things work out as far as additional bed rest beyond that. If I have a 3 day transfer, it's tentatively scheduled for a weekend, which would be ideal as far as being horizontal and unshowered goes. I really have no idea if it's a 5 day transfer. Sigh.

    Love the switcheroo on the book jacket! ;) Crafty, girl!

  7. I have no advice on the horizontals but I do have congrats on the book swap front. I would have been less organised, and spent the whole journey trying to pin the covers to a train table with another book / cup of coffee / my face - resulting in something far less elegant and conducive to learning about the business of simply not sodding well having children.

  8. heeheehee *snort* "I'd recommend Lustrum" that just cracks me up. Love it!

  9. I like the book jacket trick. I wonder if a similar thing could be fashioned with a soft-back book and a little cutting and pasting... my doc only said not to jump on a pogo stick for the first 24 hours after transfer. (He did actually say that). I've heard that some docs don't want you to take to bed because they want to keep a good flow of blood through the area (but not sure about that one).


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