Using any scale of measurement, the process of IVF is a grueling one. All of those hopes and fears, the money spent, the physical processes endured. All focused on one outcome: the positive pregnancy test. So how to cope when you have IVF failure. Especially after waiting two long weeks to find out if you’re pregnant, then receiving the bad news your blood tests are negative?
Acknowledge the anguish and allow space for your loss
An IVF failure can be devastating. Not only is it the loss of a precious embryo, but also the loss of a future life that was unspooling from the hope you had for that baby.
Acknowledging these losses, and allowing time for the sadness is needed. Cry, write down your thoughts, have long baths, or go for long walks. It will give you space to grieve and then gently tap into your own inner strength and resilience.
Remember, grieving is not a one-size-fits-all process. This is your journey and you should take whatever time you need to process your feelings.
Avoid (at all costs!) the blame game – but do ask questions and seek to understand your options
This is not the time to jump down your own throat and start berating yourself with ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’.
IVF, after all, is a numbers game. The established data regarding IVF success rates puts the likelihood of live birth at 5% to 40% per embryo transfer. A woman’s age and the cause of infertility, are two factors that contribute to the wide range.
Unfortunately, even under the ‘best’ circumstances, there’s still a high probability that the transfer will result in a failed cycle.
While this is not a time to blame yourself, or to feel as though your body has failed you, it can be a great time to focus on what is next, and what went well:
- Prepare for your follow-up appointment with your doctor. Have your thoughts clear and your questions ready for clarification. Are there changes that can be made based on learnings from this IVF cycle? Are there different protocols or add-on treatments that might help with another round?
- Take stock of what you feel did go well this time, despite the outcome. This could be things that helped you feel better through the process. Whether that was spending more time with your partner, speaking to a counsellor, healthy eating, time off work or extra sleep. Think of anything that really assisted you, physically or emotionally. You can replicate these positives if/when you proceed with another round of IVF.
Check in with yourself (and with your partner) after IVF failure
Tempting as it may be to rush directly into another round of IVF, it’s important to allow yourself time to recover and reset.
- Take it slowly. Give yourself things that your body needs – nourishing food, gentle exercise, adequate sleep.
- Be honest and open with your partner. This is a partnership after all, and your shared personal circumstances will govern next steps. So – with respect and compassion – let your partner know what support you need (and how you need it). Importantly, give them permission to experience this setback differently to you, remembering that people cope with adversity in unique ways.
- Embrace non-reproductive-related activities. Give your brain a break from the 24/7 thoughts about reproduction, infertility and the IVF failure. Participate in activities that make you feel good. Yoga, meditation, snuggling on the couch in front of a movie, gardening, walking the dog, volunteering or taking an art class… Allow yourself to feel happy about the wonderful aspects of your life.
If you’ve had IVF failure, seek professional help if you need it
Consider speaking to an experienced therapist if you’re having trouble expressing your emotions, feeling anxious, or depressed. It may also be you want a little extra support from an objective, yet knowledgeable and informed source. This is where we can help.
At Happy Minds Psychology, our warm and compassionate perinatal psychologists are here to help you work through your feelings of grief. They’ll assist you in clarifying your fertility goals, support you in making decisions moving forward, and help you to forge a positive relationship with your body.
We evidence-based positive psychology – being realistic, but highly optimistic – our therapists can help you navigate this difficult time.
Counselling sessions are available face-to-face in our Ocean Grove office or via Telehealth across Australia. Reach out to the team at Happy Minds Psychology on ☎0431 666 050, fill out our contact form to request a callback, or email us at [email protected].