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Can’t Have a Baby? Let Us Make a Dollar Off of You.

We were watching Pete’s Dragon, and the ChickieNob asked how the medical charlatan who rode through town tricked the people time after time since he had obviously been through Passamaquoddy before.  And I explained that where matters of the body are concerned, emotions run high, and people will  sometimes try anything for their health and well-being.

I was thinking about Doc Terminus when I saw the story about the online test to predict your success with IVF tonight.  Step right up, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for just a tiny sum of money, a mere trifle, Univfy can PREDICT with not-so-great accuracy the chances of a woman having a life birth via IVF.  Step! Right! Up!

That is, if you have around $275.

The cost of a Univfy test ranges from $50 to $100 for the pre-IVF test, to $175 for the Predict IVF test, for women who have already undergone in vitro fertilization and are considering another cycle.

In other words, the information your DOCTOR should be able to tell you in helping you make sound decisions about your medical care, can now be purchased by an independent company which is merely taking statistics such as your age, weight, and fertility history and comparing it to other people in a database.  Against other people in a database, I’m sure I’d look like a good candidate for IVF.  You know, if you didn’t look at my FSH levels.  And if you did look at my FSH levels and look at my pregnancy record, you wouldn’t need to shell out $175 to know that I’m not a good horse to bet on.

I don’t expect much from Univfy, after all, there are a lot of companies out there — from those that make fertility apps to those that do fertility loans — that are trying to cash in on a medical issue.  Where there is money to be made, there will be people in there making money.  And I don’t begrudge people who have put a lot of time and energy into their education or research or equipment or medication asking for fair pay for their hard work.  But what I do mind is when doctors and organizations support companies such as Univfy.

Because we are emotional.  Because we would do anything for peace of mind.  Because we would do anything to increase our chances at success.  And we need good people helping us make good decisions, especially when there are companies out there trying to take advantage of us.  Because there is absolutely no reason why people should be shelling out $175 for someone to analyze their chances at IVF success simply by filling out an online form.  And I really fear the number of people who may pay for the chance at hope.  Because who wouldn’t pay $175 for a dose of hope if they thought that it had the support of respected doctors and organizations?  I certainly would.

What is next?  College sites that compare your GPA, town, and SAT scores in a database to tell you your chances of getting into the schools on your list?  Cancer sites that compare your age, stage of cancer, and smoking history and spits out whether the protocol you’re on really has the 25% chance of working like your doctor says?

I am so angry right now, though relieved to see that my doctor isn’t part of their directory of doctors who “share a vision with Univfy.”  Is yours?

Nor did I see Doc Terminus on the list, though I’m sure he’d step right up to be one of their providers.


1 Stupid Stork { 05.20.13 at 10:48 pm }


2 Alexicographer { 05.20.13 at 11:07 pm }

I don’t know, Mel, and I say this as a woman who did IVF time and again against my doctor’s recommendation (4 times, to be specific, if we count only completed cycles, before the one that resulted in the conception and birth of my son, and 2 more after that, neither of which did). Yes, of course, we should be getting sound medical advice from our doctors (mine eventually let me cycle … every single time (well, except the first cycle, he was mostly OK with that) … only after I told him that yes I *KNEW* the chances were lousy but that they were better with IVF + ICSI than without — we are 100% MF (failed vasectomy reversal) … but he never seemed to grasp the importance of that detail to me. And I’m a high FSHer, also).

I went to the Univfy site and in fact it does ask for a bunch of information, including FSH level, and, from the most recent IVF cycle — Total Gonadotropins: _____IU; Serum Peak Estradiol: _____pg/mL; Max. Endometrial Thickness: _____IU . It’s not just weight, height, and whether you’re a smoker.

In the end, the problem with the statistics of course is that any individual’s experience is binary. Maybe she’s one of the lucky ones who did end up with a viable pregnancy, against the odds (me). Maybe she’s one of the unlucky ones who didn’t get pregnant despite there being no clear reasons why IVF wasn’t the answer. So I get your concern, and I totally get your anger that someone is making money off this (but why else would someone offer this service? It’s not a single clinic using its data, it’s a firm aggregating data across many more cases than any clinic would ever see).

I wouldn’t, actually, guess that there is no value to someone taking massive amounts of detailed data and using them to predict individual outcomes (on average, over time … not for any given individual). It’s even possible that it may improve the advice our doctors are able to give us, or the treatments — and either of those improvements would be a very good thing.

3 a { 05.20.13 at 11:08 pm }

This is probably aimed at people with too much money who are on their 5th month of trying without success. The people who feel like they’re entitled to jump the line in any situation…

I hope that it will quietly fold away into oblivion, when real people with real problems advise others to steer clear…

(But I’m glad to see that my doctor was not on the list…)

4 Krystyn { 05.20.13 at 11:15 pm }

I have to say that this angers me. As someone who has gone through 8 cycles (IUI and IVF combined) and who has had numerous losses, I find this disgusting. Thinking back to when I was feeling hopeless, and I wanted nothing more than to be a mom, I probably would have been desperate enough to try this. I feel like this company is praying on the desperation of women who are trying to get pregnant. And the flip side of this is, what if the test comes back with a discouraging result? What if that was enough to make someone give up their dream of motherhood when it was possible once other factors got worked out?

5 Another Dreamer { 05.21.13 at 12:33 am }

There’s a huge problem with statistics… and by that, I mean that they are usually greatly misleading. Yes, they can give you an indication of how things might go, but no statistic holds all the facts, and therefore all the answers. I bet that it would tell me I’m a great candidate for IVF, I’ve had REs tell me the same, I’m still “young”, my FSH and AMH have been considered excellent… but with my history, you have to wonder. Not to mention my plethora of miscarriage risk factors, which is something else to consider. Statistics give us comfort at times, closure at others, but I find them nothing by misleading. I had a 1% chance of losing my first 3 pregnancies… and I nailed it. I have a 25% chance each cycle, yet I can’t seem to nail that. Statistics suck.

In my state it’s only offered by ob/gyns, so that makes sense. They don’t generally know what they’re doing when it comes to reproduction anyway. Although I did see that the Cleveland Clinic offers it, so that’s sad.

6 Shelby { 05.21.13 at 12:59 am }

Heck no my doctor (or my possible future doctor) is not on that list! I’d have some serious reservations about them if they were, but it’s not possible because I know neither of them are quacks.

Personally, I think there are so many things just like this capitalizing on our deeply emotional and oftentimes desperate desire to have a baby. And having a baby is not just a want, it’s biologically programmed, so they have even more leverage on their side. It’s gross and I’m just as offended.

7 Katherine A { 05.21.13 at 8:31 am }

My initial consult with my RE cost only about $15 more than the Predict IVF test and I got to talk to a real, live doctor. At that point, I’d much rather just get a second opinion than shell out for a computer test.

Also because I’m very wary of the numbers right now. I looked like an excellent candidate for Clomid (completely thinned my uterine lining on the lowest dose + no ovulation = one cycle and done) and then Femara (no ovulation). All of my doctors have been somewhat surprised by that, because, like I said, the statistics are very much on my side for one of those two drugs at least producing an egg. And heck, at my age, I had an 87% chance of being fertile in the first place. I’ve just been on the wrong side of the numbers here too many times to trust statistics.

It also makes me angry, because infertility is already so expensive and emotionally charged. A computer generated statistic is so appealing in some ways – it means just typing in numbers instead of telling another doctor about your sex life/private parts/or possibly another uncomfortable examination. But no one, no computers, no doctor can give a 100% guarantee that someone won’t be one of the inexplicable unlucky ones. This test, I think, can’t take the place of a real consult and/or a second opinion, and statistics can be very misleading.

The other thing I wonder about a test like this is if it could be held against someone or disqualify them for an IVF refund package (if that’s what they’re looking for). I know that most RE offices have some fairly strict criteria to qualify for those packages that the doctor evaluates, but I do wonder if taking that test and coming out with a lower score could also come to weigh in or, if the couple winds up seeking the refund, be a reason to deny them that.

8 Katherine A { 05.21.13 at 8:37 am }

And I’m happy to note my doctor is not on their list!

9 cindy { 05.21.13 at 8:57 am }

HUH? How can a test tell you if IVF will be a success??? There are way too many factors

10 Catwoman73 { 05.21.13 at 9:13 am }

$275? Wow. Yeah- total exploitation of couples desperately clinging to any hope they can get their hands on. I don’t have a problem with the existence of such a test, if there is indeed some scientific backing for it’s accuracy, but digging so deeply into the wallets of couples dealing with emotionally difficult medical issues is disgusting.

Though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m totally curious… even though I’m done ttc, I would probably take the test if I had lots of money to burn. I can’t help but wonder where they would put my odds…

11 Denver Laura { 05.21.13 at 11:21 am }

{enter sarcasm}
For $29.99 I can provide a list that many* have guaranteed will work to get you pregnant! The list includes things such as:
1. Wear crystals
2. Stop trying
3. Adopt
4. Do yoga
5. Try cough syrup
… and the list goes on and on! Buy now, and you’ll get a free pee stick. Yes, it’s just a stick that you can wee on, but it’ll give you lots of practice when you have to start using OPK’s. Buy now! Don’t pass on this amazing offer!

*as in, I heard it from a friend of a friend that it worked for them…

12 k { 05.21.13 at 11:55 am }

I’m so glad to see that neither my old clinic nor my current clinic are on there. What a crock. The group of us here could look at anyone’s stats and come to the same conclusions for free. I always joke I know more about IF than my RE.

13 Ana { 05.21.13 at 12:28 pm }

So prediction algorithm tools like this are used pretty often in medicine—as tools for doctors to help guide treatment & understand prognosis for many different medical conditions. They are usually researched, published, rigorously peer-reviewed, and then freely available for clinicians to use. Marketing something like this to the public, at such a cost, is gross. Clinics partnering with them is even grosser.

14 Rebecca { 05.21.13 at 2:21 pm }

Snake Oil Saleman

15 Pepper { 05.21.13 at 3:08 pm }

Wow. This is so despicable that despicable is not even a strong enough word. Proud of my state for not having ANY doctors, including mine, listed. You go, Michigan.

16 Melia { 05.21.13 at 4:42 pm }

I have seen some other bloggers post about this terrible site. It honestly feels like they are preying on the emotional challenged, the women who are racked up on fertility meds and looking for that small line of “hope” that is dangling there like a cat toy ready to be yanked away. Super sad

17 persnickety { 05.21.13 at 6:59 pm }

Gah. One of the most frustrating things about IVF is that is is such a cr4pshoot. When people try to commiserate about my failed cycles, I point out that the odds for a perfectly normal “fertile” couple doing ivf probably are not much better than mine (unexplained IF). In actual fact, the treatment that appears to work for me (as in the common factor for my episodes of pregnancy) has been lack of concentration (as in totally not looking for ovulation) and copious amounts of wine once impregnanted (before I realise). No stats test in the world cna identify those ones, because they don’t ask.
I place more faith in the embroyo ttimelapse photo news that has been released- although that may lead to more heartbreak as more embroyos are identified as non-viable.

18 Battynurse { 05.21.13 at 8:59 pm }

Yuck. Some people just simply suck.

19 Christine { 05.21.13 at 9:59 pm }

What a shit-assed thing to do to anyone.

20 deathstar { 05.22.13 at 11:14 am }

I have an idea. Why doesn’t the clinic just charge the same amount as the test, plus an additional consult fee and then enter your numbers themselves and then hand you a printout? That way, they don’t have to bother really talking to you or explaining anything at all. They can just say, “Look, here’s the proof if you don’t believe me!”

21 Monique { 05.23.13 at 9:28 am }

I don’t know about this being more angering than any fertility clinic who makes money off couples who have infertility issues. They are ALL cashing in on our difficulties. They all say something along the lines of “you have a so-and-so chance of conceiving, given the statistics and data we’ve gathered.” And we ALL think we’re on the good side of the odds, holding out hope that we will be the lucky ones, or we wouldn’t be there. We wouldn’t be doing the cycles. They ALL play with our emotions.

22 nonsequiturchica { 05.23.13 at 12:26 pm }

That company tried to follow me on Twitter and I was like HELL NO. It’s just too bad that REs have signed onto that crap. Very happy to see that my dr from CT AND my dr from IL were missing from the list.

23 The Cornfed Feminist { 05.23.13 at 3:47 pm }

On a more lighthearted note, I was JUST watching Pete’s Dragon the other day and, fun fact, the actor who played Doc Terminus (Jim Dale) read all the Harry Potter audiobooks.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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