Thursday, January 10, 2008

Just Take Your Medicine

When I was about four years old, I had a fever.

"Mom, why does my head get so hot when I'm sick?"

"It's your body fighting the bug you've got."

"So it's good?"

"Yes, honey"

She then went to give me some kind of fever-reducing medicine.

"Mom, what are you giving me?"

"It's to help with the fever, honey"


"But I thought my fever was a good thing?"

"Just take the medicine."

"But who is going to fight my bug if I get rid of the fever?"

"Just take the medicine."

"But mooooooooommmmmm!"

"Just take the medicine."

God love her. She is and was a tolerant woman. But I can't help but feel some kind of parallel between this and some of the ridiculousness with regard to infertility. I feel like we repeatedly try to treat the symptom and not the disease.

"Take the medicine" is something I think about every time I shoot my wife in the ass with some unpronounceable goop in a syringe. And I wonder - there's got to be a reason more and more people need fertility intervention. There's got to be some issue, some imbalance, some evil, if you will, that's causing this - and yet so little has been invested to try and determine what "it" is.

According to a Reproductive Genetics Center study, .05% of men were functionally sterile (sperm counts below 20 million) in 1938. Today that rate is 8-12%. Some studies argue the rate of male infertility is growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percent each year. Excuse my French, but that, ladies and germs, is seriously fucked up.

And yet, there is a dearth of research into causes of infertility while we pump each other full of hormones and masturbate in back rooms to try and create a family.

Now, I know there has been SOME research - we know that have a battery of chemical, pharmaceutical, and environmental possibilities for infertility. Heavy metals, hydrocarbons, varnishes, glues, solvents, pesticides, oxidants (free radicals), etc. – all exhibit effects on fertility but determining statistically significant causality is another matter. However, it’s probably safe to say that if you work in a rubber factory or if you finish floors for a living and you’re just getting to the family planning part of life, move to a state where IVF is covered by your HMO.

Type "in vitro" into a Yahoo news search though - you know what you get? Hundreds of articles about diagnostics markets, diagnostic partnerships, marketing agreements between businesses making in-vitro diagnostic machines, partnership agreements with foreign companies for in-vitro computer technology, in-vitro medical device permits, acquisitions, stock options, blah, blah, blah...

People are making a lot of money on us. I'm not sure they care about the cause.

"Just take the medicine."



repb said...

I totally hear that. Don't be such a stranger. We miss you. Good luck to you and your wife in the new year.

Beagle said...

You know you have a huge point here . . . it is more profitable for the experts NOT to find the root cause. After all that medicine is expensive!

Here's hoping this is your year.

(We've thrown away the sharps container and have placed our chips on adoption . . . but that's big business too, isn't it?)

Pamela Jeanne said...

Well said. Found you through A Woman My Age...just wanted to welcome you to what has become a rich and welcome community of souls who are all struggling with the same thing you and your wife are. I'm post IVF treatment, sadly without success, but I still feel a great kinship with those who are going through the process whether they succeed or not. That's simply because infertility changes us all in ways that those who are fertile can never fully appreciate. Wishing you all the best. I'll add you to my blogroll so I can keep up on your progress.
Pamela Jeanne

Bea said...

That's always been one of the biggest arguments of IVF's opponents - that it diverts funds from infertility prevention and cure.

Trouble is, not every disease has a cure, and IVF is a pretty damn good management tool, all things considered. Compare it to treating blocked fallopian tubes surgically - cheaper, less risky and painful, and success rates certainly seem to match up (although obviously there's still much room for improvement).

Having said that, management shouldn't be the only focus. I do believe that fertility specialists have an interest in the whole problem, and not just the IVF side. After all, it's a lot of money to us, but not much compared to medical procedures in general, and there are plenty of infertile patients around to keep business ticking over. I don't think they'd lose financially by handing out a cure instead of a management, and I think they'd find this professionally more satisfying.


offsprung said...

Bea - I agree with you. I guess I was just speaking from the perspective of two people who have no known "problem" - just some undiagnosed, mysterious inability to procreate... which, if you get down to brass tax (save for perhaps religious arguments), is the essential function of a species - the most innate purpose.

What causes something like that to simply malfunction to a greater and greater extent over time?

Southern Comfortable said...

I totally agree that there should be more focus on finding and ending the causes of infertility, both systemically and on a case-by-case basis. It's so scary that infertility is becoming more and more prevalent.

Gumby said...

That is what I've been wondering since we got the diagnosis of a Y chromosome microdeletion, which causes "severe infertility" in our case - absolutely no sperm/azoospermia in the really unlucky guys.
My thought for the last year since that diagnosis has been "OK, so there's a defect in his chromosomes... How the fuck did that happen?!" Did he do it to himself by smoking, or possibly his birth parent(s) smoking? Is it purely one of those things that malfunctions in utero when he was growing into baby boy? Is it from years of exposure to formelen (however you spell it)? WHAT? What caused this and could it have been prevented? Could this be fixed with some kind of gene therapy? I want to know. We HAVE to know! Think of all the women like myself who could possibly be spared the emotional and physical trauma of IVF and other ART procedures because we can now prevent or fix these issues.
But then I guess maybe that's the problem. It's ONLY women who are really affected. Perhaps if more men spoke out about their own experience and trauma in this matter, something would actually be done - miraculously the funding for research would appear.
Maybe I'm just too cynical, but...

Polka Dot said...

I found you through Lost and Found.

I'm in full agreement - something's afoot with a population that gets more and more "off" as time goes on. And something far worse when the medical profession (doctors, pharmacies, etc ..) weigh the profits of maintainment against those of cure. Which is why I firmly believe we'll never see a cure for cancer or AIDS.

I hope you don't mind if I continue to read. My DH & I are faced with saving for our firt round of IVF after 2 yrs and 1 loss. My best wishes to you both.

shinejil said...

I've been suspicious, too, about a group of people who claim to base their work on science, and yet have so little data related to many, many problems. The treatment is the same, whether your unexplained, anovulatory, MF, or whatever.

I think that there is definitely something bigger going on with infertility.

Thanks for your thoughts and best of luck to you and your wife!

katty said...

Hey. Just to wish you luck really (and say that I agree with you).

Lisa M said...


One thing I wonder about is whether birth control pills have any effect on female fertility. As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no research on this question, but it stands to reason that taking artificial hormones continuously for a decade or two could have some cumulative effect on a woman's reproductive system.

However, who is going to fund research that will threaten a very profitable sector of the pharmaceutical industry AND possibly scare people away from using an effective method of birth control?

Anonymous said...