Pregnancy Rates Analysis 101: Some Basics

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For my first blog session aimed at increasing awareness around fertility treatments and in helping you to analyse the myriad of stuff that gets presented out there, I’ve chosen to review a newspaper article that recently came across my desk, written in the Buderim Chronicle. The original article is attached and just like a tutorial, you can use it as background reading for our discussion today.

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Pregnancy Rates Analysis 101: Introduction

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Welcome to what I call “Pregnancy Rates Analysis 101”. It’s my effort to help lay people better equip themselves with some simple ways of analysing the large amount of noise out there about fertility treatments and getting pregnant, because in amongst the noise, you will be relieved to know that there is useful and accurate information, if you can spot it.

I recently posted some questions to readers about how they might better determine good from bad advice that they either read or receive from friends and practitioners. This section of my blog is dedicated to helping people in this area.

Over the next few weeks I will post a few pieces and in them, take you through some simple strategies and statistical concepts, I hope you enjoy them.

How do you measure if a treatment is successful?

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Every week I see couples who are trying to conceive. Prior to seeing me, they have consulted widely as to what strategies supposedly lead to success. There is no shortage of “expertise” out there! Sometimes it’s your know-all friend in the tea room, or a natural therapy person, or a GP, or Doctor Google. I’m always amazed when a particular treatment or strategy is billed as having a “100 percent success rate”. How could anyone believe that?? How can the people that write that stuff expect anyone to believe them? If they were right, no-one would have to do anything else!

Another one of my favorites is “I have seen hundreds of couples over the years and once they took xxxx, they got pregnant.” This kind of statement is generally the basis for segments on popular current affairs TV shows, or articles in popular magazines. But did the potion in question lead to pregnancy, or would it have happened anyway?

So let me ask you some simple (?) questions:

  1. How do you (or serious researchers) work out whether a particular strategy led to pregnancy, or whether it was a coincidence – that is, it would have happened anyway?
  2. How would you decide whether an “expert” is really an expert in the area they profess to be?
  3. How would you define a treatment as “successful” anyway?

HINT: the answers are NOT things like “my friend knew someone who took it, and it worked” or “they were interviewed in the national media, so they must be an expert”.