Emotional and Wellbeing impacts of a non-successful IVF cycl
Emotional and Wellbeing impacts of a non-successful IVF cycle
Whether it’s your first cycle or your very last chance at IVF this is one of the most uniquely painful and challenges you will experience. Having put more time, energy and desire in to creating something than ever before in your life, to have seen your egg and sperm, develop into cells, then a blastocyst, to have potentially named it. Finally, to have waited patiently mulling over everything to be told sadly it’s not worked hurts!
As the quote opposite said it’s a pain that is hard to comprehend unless you have experienced it. You can’t help but visualise the miracle on the screens during egg transfer becoming a child and when you know it will never be it affects you deeply.
For those whom it was there last chance feel this pain even more deeply affecting who you are to the very core. But you have to remember that “with or without a baby you are valuable, you are whole and you matter” this quote it representative of how it can feel that you are lost, life doesn’t matter and that your lack of child means you have no input into society.
Why do I feel this way?
Firstly, let me premise this with however you are feeling, it is perfectly normal, each individual and couple will deal with the emotional impacts of a non-successful IVF cycle differently and feel in their own ways, we are just going to explore some of the common impacts and feelings that you may be experiencing.
I’ve heard people who have never experienced any fertility issues or non-successful fertility treatments say things like
“how can you be sad about something you never had”
“It’s bound to happen eventually”
“Why don’t you just adopt”
“sorry to hear that, but I don’t personally believe in fertility treatment”
Let’s look at the first one in more detail. As in the introduction even though you haven’t lost a child it feels like you have, you attached feeling, hope, desire and dreams to that embryo and what you are feeling is grief. Grief for the loss you have experienced, grief for what may have been. These are powerful emotions and not ones to be trivialised. Grief is something that often we need help to resolve and work through and it is something that every one of us experience in a unique way.
The second one hurts for different reasons, you know that you have tried for many years, put blood sweat and toil into trying to create the future that you imagine and you know that as you get older you get less and less likely to conceive and it comes with higher and higher risks. You know that IVF is not an endless option to many, the NHS have a set number of cycles dependent upon where you live and private treatment is expensive. It also creates resentment as clearly in their minds it’s meant to happen for everyone, but in your mind it was probably meant to happen when you met the right person, when you were ready to make the sacrifices required to become a parent or countless other things. Then when things haven’t gone that way for you, this can lead to strong feelings of why me? Or what have I done wrong?
The third one, you’re emotionally drained, you’re tired and you have put everything you have into trying to make a biological child. Often couples don’t have the energy to even consider adoption at this point. So much so, that many adoption agencies won’t even consider you until a few years after IVF so that you have had time to deal with this and are 100% sure this is what you want. On the flip side one individual of a couple might be perfectly ready and want to adopt, whilst the other one might still be coming to terms with infertility and grappling with adoption even being an option.
Equally adoption may never be right for you as an individual person or for you as a couple. It is time consuming, potentially intrusive and has a financial cost. People who use the term ‘just adopt’ usually have no idea on how much time, effort and emotion would go into this. Try to remember that these people usually mean well but are struggling to know what to say and that you perfectly within your right to explain how such comments make you feel. Many people may end up feeling guilty if they aren’t ready to consider adoption straight away. Remember, you are allowed time to grieve and to process what has just happened. This is not a time for quick decisions. Take your time to deal with your feelings after IVF first.
The final one is just rude; I appreciate that certain religions and populations believe that this is playing god so to speak. It’s very easy for people to say things like this when often it means life hasn’t pushed them to the point where they’re willing to try anything. They don’t get the hopes you pin to this, it’s not like you woke up one morning and decided ‘let’s not try the normal way let’s just go straight to the doctors and get them to do it’. It is normal to feel angry or upset when people make such comments. Again, you should never feel like you can’t explain why such comments may hurt you. Just remember that your feelings are always valid.
Some of the examples above demonstrate why you are feeling the way you are feeling and that it is completely normal.
What should I do about these feelings?
You should feel them! Let yourself grieve, cry, get angry and anything else you need to do, open up to your partner and those around you who understand and want to support you. Try not to bottle up these feelings as they can start to eat you from the inside and impact you in ways you don’t realise. If you need to take time from work to deal with this then do so.
If you find there are people in your life who are having a negative impact on you because of comments they make or opinions they have, then, where possible, try and reduce your contact with them for a short time. This can be hard to do, particularly if you have to see them. If this is the case, then steering clear of any conversation to do with your IVF treatment or fertility is the next best thing. If they are insistent on bringing it up, then you could politely ask them not to and just explain you do not wish to discuss it currently. This is never an easy one but remember, for a time you have to prioritise yourself and your mental well-being. Don’t feel guilty for taking a break from their negativity.
Look after yourself! Partake in self care where you can. A warm bath, a good book, whatever you might do to treat yourself. It doesn’t have to be pricey (although it can be if you like). Just take the time for yourself. Also remember that during the initial period after IVF, the woman will be coming off drugs and having her period. For most women this is not a particularly energetic or positive experience and so taking the extra time to look after yourself or your partner during this will be helpful.
Mindfulness can be very helpful, there are loads of resources on mindfulness out there and the NHS has a page dedicated to this too. Below I will link a few resources for you as a starter.
Calm App – A free to use app (it does have a premium version) but plenty of free content to work through mindfulness this can be downloaded on I-store or Google Play
Mindful.org – A really great informative blog which looks at mindfulness and meditation
Mindful IVF app this can be downloaded on your phones store, it has a free before IVF 10 day series. Take a look at it, it’s interesting to have such a targeted mindfulness approach.
Sometimes these feelings and emotions can overwhelm us and have physiological and well-being impacts on our lives, it can reduce our appetite, impact our sleep, cause us to withdraw and a host of other things which aren’t ideal over a long period of time. As such be conscious of these and try and ensure you are eating and drinking enough, that if you’re not sleeping that you try some natural aids and if they don’t work speaking with your GP to see if short term sleep aids might help.
Finally, if you don’t think you are dealing with these emotions then you should seek specialist support through counselling and therapy. You can find details of specialist IVF therapists at BICA (British Infertility Counselling Association) or you can access NHS therapy through you GP or clinic, in fact NICE recommends that counselling is offered before, during and after IVF treatment as a matter of course with someone not involved in the management of your case. Don’t be scared or feel embarrassed about how you feel it’s completely normal.