Update at the Bottom
I recently sent along an episode of Reply All to Noemi because it spoke about money. I had paused it midway through the episode when I got out of the car in the morning, and returned to it in the afternoon. In between, I sent the email. I would have still sent the email, but now hearing the end of the episode, I would have written a very different message.
The episode was about people listing their financial transactions online. You can listen to the episode, if you want, below. The part that gave me pause came at 13:45. The woman is talking to someone who charges others to give them advice. She asks him a question about PCOS.
The situation is that she was diagnosed with PCOS two years ago. She is now in a committed relationship. She tells the advice giver that having PCOS means that she is infertile and will be unable to have children. She asks him if she should tell her boyfriend now that children aren’t in their future.
Who told her that PCOS equals infertility? PCOS is a common diagnosis for infertility — about a third of all infertility diagnoses are PCOS-related — but not all women who are diagnosed with PCOS will be infertile.
It’s also an issue that has possible solutions. If you look at the various reasons for female factor infertility (missing or blocked fallopian tube, endometriosis, uterine anomaly, etc), it’s a problem usually solved with less invasive treatments such as oral medications. It’s a diagnosis that many times allows doctors to ramp up slowly to IVF instead of heading straight to embryo creation without passing go.
I’m not minimizing PCOS, but a PCOS-diagnosis is not a single lane road to infertility.
The advice giver tells her to be upfront and tell her boyfriend. It’s not terrible advice — I’m all for openness in relationships and she should tell her partner her known medical history — but it’s uninformed advice. He doesn’t point out that she should still be careful about having unprotected sex unless she wants to have children because she is fertile until proven otherwise when it comes to PCOS. He doesn’t point out that PCOS is often treated successfully with Clomid and Metformin. That the average 20 – 24 year old has a 20% chance of getting pregnant, lower than the success rates of Clomid/Metformin or IUIs for women with PCOS.
I only knew this was uninformed advice because I knew generally about PCOS. Which made me wonder: How many other advice columns do I read and nod along with, believing it to be good advice because I don’t know better. Whereas someone, somewhere else, is cringing as they read the advice, knowing that it’s just… wrong. Or even when it’s right, it’s uninformed, a shot in the dark.
This advice thing is serious business, especially because we are so open to gathering the thoughts and feelings of other people when we’re struggling to make sense of our lives. What else is the comment section except a receptacle to catch all the advice and feedback that floats out of the reader’s mind as they read the post?
It definitely gave me pause.
And it totally wasn’t what the episode was about.
Update: I think it makes a strong case for why situation-specific advice columns work and general advice columns are hit-or-miss. I feel safer asking for advice and accepting advice from someone who is speaking from experience vs. someone outside of the situation. I don’t need the person to have gone through the exact same thing, but… I mean, would an 80-year-old woman want advice on how to deal with an age-specific situation from a 20-year-old? Probably not. So why should a woman with PCOS take advice from a random man?
Side note: Tomorrow is #Microblog Monday. Get writing.