According to a report out today, we are using IVF too quickly and too often, particularly for those with unexplained infertility. I was due to go and discuss this on Sky News this morning, but due to hideous traffic ended up missing the slot. I was disappointed, as I did want to raise some important issues from the patient perspective on this.
The report says that 25 – 30% of those who come for IVF currently have unexplained infertility, and that some of them will actually get pregnant naturally. The report talks about natural conception occurring even in couples who have been through two to three years of unexplained infertility. This is true – we all know it can happen – but that doesn’t mean it will happen for every patient with unexplained infertility. According to HFEA data, the average fertility patient in the UK has spent four years trying before they have IVF. I am not sure how much longer the authors of the report would expect them to carry on before fertility treatment would become appropriate.
We also have to remember that there is always a cause for unexplained infertility – the diagnosis just means that doctors haven’t managed to find it. Our infertility was unexplained, and we have never conceived naturally. Had we waited five or six years before trying IVF (and I assume this is how long we are meant to carry on as four years is seemingly not enough), our treatment would have been far less likely to work as my fertility would have been declining.
I appreciate that clinicians need to debate these issues, but it can be very difficult for patients who are forever facing conflicting information about what they should do and when. I’d say the best thing is always to take advice from a fertility specialist, and to take newspaper headlines with a pinch of salt.