Empowerment of IVF patients through Knowledge

Patients often don't understand why we insist that they take the time and trouble to educate themselves about the IVF process. Their general attitude is - We're just patients. As laymen, what do we understand about medical technical niceties? And after all, aren't we going to a doctor who's a medical professional? And we trust the doctor, so why should we care about these minutiae? Will we be able to even understand this? The reason we're going to him is because he is the expert! Isn’t it his job to do the process and carry it out properly? Why do we need to apply our minds? And isn't a little bit of knowledge a dangerous thing? Won't doctors get upset if we ask too many questions or if we know too much? And won't knowing stuff actually create a lot of anxiety for us?

The problem is that patients in India are too passive, and doctors are too paternalistic. It’s important for patients to understand the IVF process because this is well-defined. However, the outcome of any IVF cycle is always going to be uncertain and unpredictable, but if you understand the process, you will have peace of mind that the treatment you are receiving is of high quality, irrespective of what the final outcome will be. Understanding what's going to happen actually reduces your anxiety levels, because you know what is going to happen next.

You can look forward to seeing your follicles growing when you do a scan, check the texture of your uterine lining with your own eyes, and interpret your blood estradiol levels for yourself, without having to passively depend on your doctor ( who may be too busy to have time to explain anything properly to you, which means you are full of unresolved doubts and queries)

You will even be able to admire your embryos and check they are of good quality, by comparing your embryo photos with what you see online at this can be extremely reassuring.

Knowing what’s happening, and what’s going to happen next, allows you to check that your treatment is progressing as planned, and this increases your confidence levels and your trust in your doctor because you are in control and aren’t groping in the dark because your doctor refuses to share information with you. If you are proactive, you will also know when things aren't going as expected and will be able to talk to the doctor intelligently, so he can make the needed corrections. After all, IVF treatment is a biological system, and there is always a certain degree of trial and error in the first cycle. If you are prepared for this, it will make the IVF journey much easier for you. Otherwise, this can become an emotional roller coaster ride, which is very hard to manage, especially when things aren't going well, because that's the time doctors start hiding information! You will be able to sense something is wrong, but won’t know because the doctor will refuse to share the truth with you. On the other hand, if you're proactive, and you know exactly what's going to happen next, you're in control and will not allow bad doctors to take advantage of your ignorance. Remember that good doctors are always happy to make sure that you know as much as possible about your treatment because they know this is in your best interests - and theirs as well.

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.