Failed again. Another month, another failed infertility treatment. Are you too frightened or tired or broke to keep going, yet unable to accept that end-of-the-road feeling? Here are some things to consider as the feeling of desperation sets in:
- Why didn’t it work? Find out more about what happened. If there is an explanation, and it makes sense, and something can be done about it, then consider giving it another try. Are more diagnostic tests needed? If so, how would they make the next experience or cycle different than previous ones?
- Consider the sperm. For years it’s been thought that infertility is just a female issue. Hello! It’s not. Sperm matter too. And we now know that sperm matter more than ever. Maybe it’s him and maybe he needs a deeper dive to achieve success.
- Respect the odds. Honest truth: most cases of IVF fail. One UK study of over 178,000 cycles found that the cumulative live birth rate after 3 cycles of IVF was 42%. After 8 cycles, it was 82%. That means it takes an average of 7 IVF cycles to conceive. If the success rates of IVF were applied to cancer, we wouldn’t be curing half the cancers we do today. Consider weighing the emotional, financial and physical toll against the odds of success when considering another try.
- Don’t rush into another treatment. Many patients go whole hog into IVF, cycle after cycle, to dissipate the pain, anger, despair and feelings of urgency to get pregnant as soon as possible. Realize too that every failed treatment takes an emotional toll, chipping away at the foundation of who you are. Take a break and ask yourself: How is your relationship doing? Are you drifting apart from friends? Is this really worth it? Often, time off from treatments can help you recharge and rally your support.
- Get an honest (possibly second) opinion. Medicine is as much art as science. As with any art form, the way that medical information, symptoms and health care is interpreted and delivered varies tremendously among doctors. What are the odds of success trying the same thing again? What about when trying something different? Do the proposed next steps make sense? For years, I have offered a virtual Second Opinion that could make a big difference in what you decide to do.
- Are you open to Eastern therapies? Call me a “swingman,” but Eastern medicine has a lot up its sleeve too. And for good reason: Western medicine likes to separate health from disease, whereas Eastern medicine considers health as a state of balance that coexists with disease. Since infertility is a biomarker of overall health, the Eastern approach is way ahead here. And besides, who wouldn’t prefer sex and candles to shots and egg retrievals?
- Can you make peace? Don’t be afraid to say that enough is enough. Saying no is, in some strange way, a great way to gain control. Over love, life and everything in between. And you probably didn’t know this, but there’s a significant and measurable at-home, old-fashioned pregnancy rate after couples fail infertility treatments.
There is life, and there’s infertility, and there is life after infertility. Is it the same? No. But there is still beauty in it, as we live and breathe on this good earth. Just as we should never let success get to our heads, we should also never let failure get to our hearts.
This article first appeared on Dr. Turek’s blog.