Recently, Danish researchers proposed that not having children may shorten your life. Specifically, that going through IVF and coming out the other side without children, whether biological or adopted, makes you 2-4 times more likely to die an early death. They looked at over 21,000 couples who were pursuing fertility treatments. These couples wanted children, and the researchers make this distinction in the study. They are also quick to point out that correlation does not imply causation.
Mel @ Stirrup Queens and Katie @ from IF to when have both written about this, and they both seemed to take a similar view–that someone out there is trying to scare you into having kids. But when I heard about this research, my first thought was something very different.
My husband was the one who discovered the study, and when he told me the statistics, I thought, That’s the same increased death rate that women who lose a living, breathing child experience. The loss any of us feels after a failed cycle is real. Just as real* as for a woman who loses a child outside the womb, as described here.
Not to be morbid, but I found this notion comforting. We all know, through blogging or personal experience, someone who has suffered from a failed IVF cycle, an early loss, a chemical pregnancy. And we know that the pain that woman feels is acute, though often unrecognized by the outside world.
Finally, we’re not the only ones who see it.
The body reacts physically (sometimes as Broken Heart Syndrome) to the stress of dealing with the loss of a loved one. For me, my (hypothetical, future) babies don’t even exist in the form of embryos yet, but it doesn’t mean I love them or miss them any less. It doesn’t mean I don’t wish every day that they were here. I can only imagine how much harder it must be to have nearly touched that possibility, only to have it ripped away. And then, to never come any closer than that. Physically, emotionally, it’s a real loss. One that deserves to be acknowledged, which, it seems to me, this study, in its small way, has done.
So, no, I don’t feel scared. I feel validated. Am I the only one? Am I making too large a mental leap?
What do you think about this study or how it has been portrayed in the media? (And if you haven’t seen any media coverage, just google “childless women death rate.”)
P.S. My scientist husband read the full study and endorses the methodology, statistical analysis and inferences, and disclaimers as valid.
*And just to be clear, I don’t want to get into any kind of Pain Olympics here. I’m not saying that one kind of loss is equal to or lesser than another. I’m just saying that we have indeed all experienced loss, in one form or another.