With IVF there is an awful lot of information online and I’m not always sure what is valid and true and what is hearsay. I’m a UX designer by trade, which means I typically make my decisions based on data, numbers and studies… but I found that most articles didn’t include their sources. They discussed numbers but didn’t follow it up with references. It made it difficult to know what information to trust.
So, I started doing my own research and reading scientific studies.
It was intimidating at first. I wasn’t sure where to look or how to find studies or how to know if they were statistically significant, or even relevant to me. First things first though. I knuckled down and just started searching.
1. Write out a list of questions
Sometimes it’s hard to find a starting point. There is so much information it can be overwhelming. To make it easier, I like to structure my research with a series of questions. Typically:
- What is my body supposed to do?
- What causes x?
- What can I do so help x?
If my research was focused on, say, thin endometrium lining, I’d write down:
- What part does my endometrium lining play in my cycle (ie, what is it supposed to do?)
- What counts as thin?
- What effect does a thin endometrium lining have on my fertility?
- What causes thin endometrium lining?
- What can I do to help thin endometrium lining?
2. Brainstorm (ie, Google everything)
At this point you want to start collecting ideas. Not everything will be scientifically correct or have supporting research, but that’s okay. Read wikipedia articles, blogs and clinic websites. Visit forums, and ask questions on instagram.
For everything you find, write bullet points underneath your questions with what you discover. You’ll get a long list of things, hopefully.
For example, whenever I came across anything that suggested it might cause thin endometrium lining, I’d write it under the ’cause’ heading with a link so I could find it again.
Here’s the beginning of a list I started when I was researching acupuncture:
3. Verify with Research
This is the tricky bit. For every item on your list you want to verify that there is scientific research supporting the truth of what you’ve got.
Visit NetPubMed. URL: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed
This is the go-to place for research studies. There are so many journals and scientific research publishers and PubMed is the place all the summaries are consolidated. For everything. Every study, whether about fertility or not. You can put in a search term and hey presto, you’ll get research back.
Be generous with your search terms, and try several variations. For ‘thin lining’ I might pair the correlation I’m looking for (eg ‘uterine fibroids’) with other variations like: ‘uterine lining’, ‘endometrium thickness’, ‘thin endometrium’, ‘thin uterine lining’, ‘uterine lining growth’.
You’ll get lots back, often animal studies too. It takes some practice to find what’s relevant and what’s not, and this is where the effort is required – wading through all the research to find what you need. Where possible, filter by human studies.
If there is a correlation, you’ll often find half a dozen studies on the link. Go slow, and make sure to google the medical terms until you understand what each sentence implies. You want to make sure there is a correlation between your subject matter (thin endometrium lining, say) and the cause/fix (eg ‘uterine fibroids’). The study should be explicit in it’s results.
If it’s not, I wouldn’t take it as a correlation, and I’d strike it from your list. Take your time, this is where you separate the truth of what helps and what is just hearsay.
For every item in your list, you want to find two or three studies that support it. The studies ideally should be double blind, with a large sample across several different populations. They’re not always going to be like that.
For each point on your list, see if you can find find studies that support and studies that don’t. You’ll get an idea whether the point on your list can be crossed off as unreliable internet myth or if it has some scientific truth and can be taken to the next point.
4. Talk to your doctor.
I think this is the most important. For every study I read, for everything I wanted to try, for every forum thread that sounded interesting, I took a list of questions to my doctor to discuss. I wanted to make sure that anything I tried wasn’t going to cause harm. I wanted to make sure my Doctor was aware of the possibilities (and she always was, which I found comforting) and I wanted make sure that we were trying everything we possibly could.
We changed up my plan a few times because of my research and lists of questions. It made me feel like I was part of the planning process. It was incredibly helpful to talk it out with someone who was in the fertility profession, who equally wanted the best for me.
So. That’s how I research IVF, and how I come up with almost every research based post there is here.
What are you favourite IVF research tips? How do you guys make your IVF decisions??