How to Know When You Should Stop IVF
If you’re going through IVF, or if you’ve ever considered it as an option for conceiving, you may wonder what happens if the first cycle doesn’t work, or the second…or third, fourth, or fifth. It’s a difficult question to consider, but it’s an important one to think about so that you can be prepared emotionally for any outcome.
In this blog post we’re discussing reasons why you might want to stop IVF treatment, and when. We know this is a difficult topic to consider, especially if you’re in the throes of cycle after cycle, hoping time and again. So, I encourage you to read over this with your partner or someone you trust, and if you need more support than that person can sustain, then you can schedule a consultation with me here. I’m here for you.
When IVF Affects Your Life Too Much
One of the first questions you should ask yourself when considering whether to continue with further IVF cycles is how this treatment has impacted your life, and for how long. IVF is a physically grueling process and women who choose this path often isolate themselves from friends and family, use up life savings, and take a hit professionally. When it seems like IVF is harming your life more than it has the potential to improve it, that may be a sign that it’s time to reconsider.
When It’s Too Hard on your Marriage / Relationship / Partner
It’s common for partners to disagree on whether to continue or stop IVF treatments. In my practice, I find that women especially tend to feel a sense of desperation, leaving their husband in a place of observation, as so much about the IVF process, medically, is about the mother. And it’s common for men tend to be ready to stop IVF sooner than women.
The hormones, repeated surgeries and waves of expectations and loss are a roller coaster for women, and this can take a toll on their emotional and mental health, often affecting the marriage.
These emotional waves can take such a heavy emotional toll that people begin to notice that it’s affected everyone around them, and it leaves them thinking “I just can’t do this anymore”.
Stop When Continuing is Harder than Stopping
One of the most common refrains I hear from women is “I just can’t do it anymore”. The toll that IVF takes on their body, relationships, finances, and life is just too much, and often women find that the potential benefits don’t outweigh the current and ongoing drawbacks. I find that many women reach a point at which they feel that continuing on is much harder than stopping.
Whether you choose to continue or not, know two things:
- This is a highly personal decision, and it belongs to you and your partner only.
- Choosing to stop doesn’t mean you failed.
Choosing to stop means that you are courageously making a decision; one that will be best for you and your partner.
How to Cope with the Grief
Choosing to stop IVF brings up so much grief: grief at the time lost, the loss of the hope of carrying a child, and even the loss of the dream of having a child at all. Grieving is a slow process and there is rarely a moment at which you’re ‘over it’, so give yourself space to take care of yourself and rest.
Some couples decide not to have children, and that’s ok too. Coming to this decision after trying with IVF for so long, can be incredibly painful. It’s the loss of a dream. Most girls grow up thinking about being a mother one day, and letting go of that lifelong dream, or at least the expectation, can be devastating. We are all aware of the societal expectations that we’ll grow up to be parents, and finding that the option you’ve always taken for granted isn’t available to you, can be incredibly difficult to bear.
In order to cope with your feelings of grief, it’s important to find someone you trust and to whom you can talk freely about your loss, about how your dreams of having a child have been shattered. Talking and sharing your grief will open new avenues to discovering new dreams within you that – more likely than not – may have lain dormant during the years you were trying for a child.
Expectations + Hopes for the Future
If you decide to stop, take all the time you need to let your body, marriage, and finances recover. Take time to decide what to do next in your life, and give yourself space to reconnect with friends, find things that you love to do, and create a new vision for your life with your partner.
The Big Question: What is your idea of a family?
Part of deciding to stop IVF treatments is redefining your meaning of what it means to be a family, and what it means to live a meaningful life. If you’re considering stopping IVF, ask yourself, “What does it mean to be a family?” It is purely genetics that determine what family means? Or could it be something else?
Using donor eggs or pursuing an adoption are options for women and families who have decided not to continue with IVF treatments and are clear about their desire to have a child or children. Through the grieving process, they have determined that family, to them, means more than being genetically related. It’s the emotional connections and attachments that trump genetics for them.
In my practice, I have seen women who have asked themselves if they could have a fulfilling life without children. Some have come to this conclusion and have gone on to develop new identities and have found new meaning in their lives.
Whether you decide to go ahead with egg donation, adoption, surrogacy, or decide not to have children involves grieving the loss of a dream, and it all happens slowly. The answer to the Big Question will come to you over time.
The Toll of Not Stopping IVF
Finally, let’s look at this from another angle. While choosing to stop IVF is an extremely difficult decision, what about the cost of not stopping IVF treatment? What will the effect be on your marriage, health, relationships, and life, if you don’t stop?
Even after many many cycles, some couples don’t know when to stop, and it can take serious adverse tolls on their life. It’s common for couples to be on different pages on this topic, and I’ve witnessed marriages fall apart. When a couple disagrees about whether or not to stop, then almost everything they do has a shade of tension to it. I hear men say things like “I’m just a sperm donor to her.” Partners not going through the physical process can often feel unimportant to and neglected by the woman who desires to have a child, leaving the marriage/partnership in long-term tension.
After many unsuccessful cycles, reputable fertility clinics will help you draw the line, and often won’t be able to treat you any longer. I’ve encountered women and couples inquiring at other clinics or even go overseas to seek treatment internationally to keep on going.
No Matter What: Take care of yourself
Wherever you are in your fertility journey, take time to do the things that you love. Spend time outside, go out with friends, and choose opportunities that help you feel happy and alive.
And most importantly, find relationships with people who support you and who you can trust. If you find that you need support that is beyond what is healthy for your personal relationships, I’m here for you and would be happy to become part of your support team as you make some of life’s biggest decisions. I’ve been through this journey myself, and have supported many women as they navigate the joys and struggles of infertility.