Tuesday, 20 July 2010

It's A Kind Of Magic


Tarot cards.

Crystal balls.

Aching breasts.

What is your preferred medium for predicting the future? As I hurtle towards IVF with the speed of a tectonic plate I can't help but wonder whether it'll be a success. Whether I'll get a baby at the end of this.

But there is no real way of knowing.

Or so I thought.

According to the BBC, Stanford University in California have worked out a way to predict whether IVF will work. My favourite thing about this article is the way the header has the word 'predict' in inverted commas. Like how those cheap ice creams packages proclaim they have 'chocolate' coating. That shit ain't chocolate.

And sure enough when you read the article it turns out that there was a very little that convinced me about the accuracy of the predictions.

We discover 75% of IVF doesn't result in a live birth (which is a chilling way of reminding us that just getting pregnant isn't enough).

We are told that the researchers used data from 1,600 first time IVFers to work out whether a second shot at the IVF apple would work.

And they identified 52 different factors that impact a woman's chances of having a baby. Let me put that into context for you. Imagine a deck of cards spread all over the floor, that is a different reason for each card. (Excluding the Jokers and that poker score card thing).

So this is getting exciting, I was reading the article expecting to find the magic formula for success.

Except there were two tweeny-weeny little things that frustrated my ambition:

1) they can only start their magic prediction once they have the data from your first IVF - so already you'll have an idea as to whether IVF is really working for you


2) nowhere in the article does it say how accurate their predictions are. How many of the 1,600 women they thought would have a live birth after their second IVF actually did.

Hell, I can predict whether IVF is going to be successful or not.

Just not accurately.

I call it guessing.

Updated to add:
Areyoukiddingme? pointed me in the direction of this article which gives a bit more information on the accuracy of the calculations. It says: "Their model is 1,000 times more accurate than the methods currently used, which are based mainly on a woman's age." Although you still need to know what the initial accuracy was to work out whether 1,000 times more accurate means 'almost fool proof' or 'Yup, turns out 1,000 x 0 is still 0'.

Also the second article advises us to:
"ask your clinic about how well your embryos developed in the first cycle of IVF, and how many were produced. The staff should be able to tell you how these measure against the norm, and you could keep this information in mind when making your decision."

Which is why I love this community. I mean who seriously, who wouldn't check their crop of eggs and embryos against every other IVF-er they could find to work out whether they were doing well or a cause for concern?

What I really want (are you listening Stanford?) is an app that we can put our own data in and see what the magic eight ball says. I'm guessing "Reply hazy, try again."


  1. This one (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/besttreatments/2010/jul/20/better-way-of-predicting-ivf-success) claims 1000 times better accuracy...

    Nice of them to find a way to predict success only after failure. That's really helpful.

  2. 'Scientists' are pretty brilliant, no?

  3. How about they stop focussing on predictions and start focussing on actually making it more successful overall. Somewhere, someone is actually paying real money for this crap.

  4. Yes. The Readers, they know A LOT of things. They have PhDs and stuff. It's very impressive.

    My brain just does static when I try to think about percentages and stats. Pfzzzzzzzzzz.

  5. If your first IVF failed then your embryos didn't do so great compared to the other embryos...right?

  6. And the amazing thing is they still have no idea. Some predictions might be more accurate than others but they're pretty much all in the dark about the way these things happen - and why.

    Though, can you imagine a website like fertilityfriend, but for embryos? You could type in your information and spend hours poring over the data...actually, scratch that. We have it hard -and obsessive - enough.

  7. 52 factors? I think they're still close to "1000 x 0 is still 0". And, as Serendipity said, actually improving success rates instead of predicting them would be nice.


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