Monday, August 18, 2014

The Math of Infertility

Infertility is a very math-heavy occupation. Or should I preoccupation? Why's that, you ask? You don't see the math associated with infertility? Well, it's an inescapable truth that all infertile women are stuck calculating chaos theory. We're like the Good Will Hunting on the status of our wombs.

We calculate and analyze our bleeds with the precision of lab technicians.
  • Was it sufficient enough to warrant a good estradiol surge? Was it too heavy? How is too heavy quantified? Was it too light? Do I have to worry about a poor ovulation because of it?
We track our mucus and/or our temps like veteran statisticians.
  • This is just plain, raw data collection. It's calculated from the moment we're aware of our breath every morning, to the frequency with which we use the bathroom. We collect the data, graph it, analyze it, and our entire cycle is ruled by the prevailing trends we see or anticipate.
We are experts at postulating the evidence to support our theories about the Two Week Wait.
  • We sort and sift through every possible symptom we experience after ovulation (which we calculate with dynamo-like precision based on the biomarkers mentioned above!) for the presence of compelling evidence to support a hypothesis of pregnancy or impending CD1. We use multiple instruments to measure these symptoms in order to support or disprove the hypothesis. Armed with 2 weeks of data - we can pinpoint with scary precision what will happen next. And in our case, it's almost never pregnancy. Yet we are trapped in the cycle of hope, believing that maybe just this this *once* the data will not support the outcome.
We forecast our futures based on the dates of ovulation we experience
  • Ovulate on the 1st? I know what I'll be doing in 9 months to the second from right now. Was ovulation likely delayed by stress? I'll develop an algorithm of likelihood for everything from P-5 through P+4 and scatter plot the outcome to figure out the likely due date. I'll ignore the doctor when they date the pregnancy because I'll have the data to prove the likelier date of conception.
We're mathematicians. All of us. And we chart, graph, plot, calculate, analyze, test, and collect data all month long in hope of more math. And more calculations. And more hypotheses. That the outcome might finally be a baby...

But you know what? Even when we don't do that (and that's a pretty big 'when'), we can also tell you the opposite of what the data shows us. I know right now that I won't have a child in May of 2015. My arms will be empty next summer. I can tell you with precision on why that is a fact. And that realization is gross.

Sometimes I hate math.


  1. I'm cracking up right now! And sometimes we argue with the data... I wrote a post about that (Inanimate Objects don't lie) after all the available evidence (which turned out to be drug side effects) supported the "I'm pregnant" hypothesis. Given all the observations, data collection, and hypothesis testing, I think we're all scientists, too. (And I'm trained as a biochemist, so I can say that!) ; )

  2. I was there. I know and understand EXACTLY what you are saying. And it stinks! I wish there was some magic words to take away the frustration. You are always in my prayers!

  3. "Math class is *tough*!" -Barbie

  4. Love this post (and math too). It's so true! I get a little excited each month when I can calculate my mucus cycle score. I like data. :) In college I took a stats class, and I remember trying to see if my cycle lengths were "in control" (or whatever the term was to see if a manufacturing line was having too much variation).