What questions to ask after a failed IVF?

Explained by: Sarah Banks, Sarah Banks Coaching
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Questions to ask after failed IVF #IVFWEBINARS
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From this video you will find out:
  • what will help you recover from a failed cycle
  • what you can learn from a failed transfer
  • if it is necessary to take a break from treatment after a failure
  • what forms of support are available to you.

Coping after IVF failure - a loss of an embryo, a loss of hope and a loss of future plans

If we were about to summarise all the thoughts accumulating after a failed IVF cycle, it would be just one question: “Why did my cycle fail?”

It is a very important question but there are also other crucial aspects you should have in mind when asking questions to your doctor. It is not an easy thing to do in such a nerve-wracking moment. You can however somehow get prepared, just in case, you will need it someday. We would like you to never have to use these tips, but just like always, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

In this webinar, Sarah Banks, Fertility Coach and Mentor, has approached the important issues patients are facing after an unsuccessful IVF attempt. Watch her sharing her tips for coping with this surely hardest part of infertility treatment.

Facing grief after failed IVF

There are no doubts: a failed IVF cycle is a devastating experience whenever it happens along the journey. Sarah Banks, who has fought her own fertility battle for 6 years, admits that coping after IVF failure is like grieving for a loss. When IVF is someone’s plan B, shock and disbelief after a failed cycle may be overwhelming. You simply don’t know what to do with yourself next. Sarah says that the negative result can leave you feeling like IVF will never work for you. That’s why it is so important to process it consciously and learn how to cope with it.

Asking questions after failed IVF

It is natural that we look for the reasons why our failure happened. Firstly, because the answers may make the recovery process easier for us and secondly – because we feel that can do something different next time.

According to Sarah, a failed IVF cycle leaves patients with a lot of questions. Why didn’t it work? Is there anything that could be done differently? What are the next steps? The problem is that often there is nobody to help us answer them straight away. Clinics are generally busy and patients have to wait even up to 8 weeks for a follow-up appointment to get their answers. As a result, a lot of people feel very alone. The time between having the result and finding out what happened is simply too long. Sarah describes her feeling afterwards as falling off a cliff into a black hole.

Finding “failed IVF cycle” answers

When we finally get answers to all questions concerning our failed IVF cycle, it can make us feel better. Sarah says that knowing the reasons for the failure enables us to make changes next time – and as a result, gives us better chances of succeeding.

Although all of us want IVF treatment to work first time, the truth is that it is still an exploratory and investigatory field of medicine. In fact, the more times you have IVF treatment, the more doctors learn about your case. So on the medical side, there are changes that can be made based on the conclusions from the failed cycle. Additionally, there are questions you can ask yourself to help you recover and move forward.

Coping with the IVF failure

Sarah knows that coping after the negative result of the cycle may be the hardest part of one’s IVF treatment. That’s why it is so important to get through it in a conscious and undisturbed way. First of all, allow yourself to grieve. It is really understandable that you feel sad and there’s no need to fight it. However, if it continues for an extended amount of time and you are struggling emotionally and tend to get depressed, it is worth speaking to a counsellor for additional support. In most clinics, there are fertility counsellors who understand what you’re going through and may serve you with some useful advice.

Secondly, Sarah recommends taking care of oneself as the best cure. Look after yourself emotionally and physically and ‘recharge’ your batteries – that seems to be one of the wisest things to do. Going through IVF treatment is usually very intense so taking some time out may have only positive consequences for your mental and physical health. During this time, you should do something that will help you relax and feel nice.

When it comes to the latter, Sarah highly recommends spending time with your partner and talking about how you are both feeling after the result. Decide what you would like to do next and – most importantly – use this time to connect and support each other. Just be a couple that is not defined by IVF. You should also try to get answers to all your questions, both about the treatment itself and about your future decisions. Only in this way, you can feel fully informed and prepared for the next steps. A good idea is also spending time with your closest circle – plan to do some nice things with friends or family. Having something to look forward to will take your mind off the treatment and will enable you to spend time with those people that you love. Last but not least, attend support group meetings (either local or online). You will have a chance to meet people who know exactly what you are going through.

Planning the future – important questions

It is a well-known fact that having a plan for the future is necessary to keep us going – even in the hardest times of our life. Sarah says it helped her focus on what to do next, instead of thinking why the treatment hadn’t worked for her and her husband. In order to regain control of our life after a failed IVF cycle, we should ask ourselves a few important questions.

What am I pleased that I did during this round?

It is good to think about what it is that helped you feel better while going through the treatment, either physically or emotionally. In this way, you can replicate the good things if you have another cycle. That could include a healthy diet, extra sleep, add-on treatments as well as counselling or attending support group meetings.

What will help me recover from the failed cycle?

Look at how you have previously recovered from a great loss or upset in your life. Try to find something helpful that you have done that you could use now. Whether it is meeting friends, having time out for yourself or journalling to get your feelings out in a safe way – do what you need to help yourself get through this time.

Sarah reminds us that it is perfectly ok to grieve after a failed cycle. You should do what your heart tells you to do and try to get through this difficult time on your own terms. If you feel that you do not want to get straight back to work or go to a baby shower party you’ve been invited to – don’t do it. It is really important to prioritise your emotional health and protect yourself from things that can upset you. It is true that people who haven’t been through the same as you won’t understand the depth of emotions such experience can bring on you. That’s why you should turn for help to those people who share the same experiences (either your friends or local support groups) and do things that you know work for you.

What can we learn from the failed cycle?

When you know what went wrong in your failed treatment, you can do it differently next time to increase your chances of success. It’s a good idea to write down all your questions before the follow-up appointment with your fertility specialist. During the meeting, try to find out what aspects can improve your result in another IVF cycle, e.g.: different medication or dosage, different add-ons or maybe the use of a donor. Talk them through with your consultant who will be able to advise based on your specific circumstances.

While doing this, remember not to place blame on yourself or the clinic. Sarah highlights that it’s about looking for positive changes you could make to feel that you have done everything in your power to arrive at a different outcome.

Do we need to take a break from treatment?

Sarah admits that she was tempted to get straight back into the next cycle after the failed one – just because she felt like every month counted. Many many IVF patients feel exactly the same. However, there is one aspect they do not take into account – and it is their emotional health. It is highly important to allow yourself time to recover. Only in this way, you can be fully prepared emotionally and physically for your next cycle or to make decisions on going forward. Sarah, of course, realises that it may not be an option for the people who are e.g. concerned about decreasing fertility with age. But whatever your case may be, it is always crucial to make the most of the time in between cycles to recharge your batteries and get yourself ready to move forward.

The options that await you may vary. First of all, you have to decide if you want to have another cycle at all – considering costs, emotional impact, age, etc. Maybe, in case of a few failed IVF cycles, you want to look at other routes to parenthood, such as donor, surrogacy or adoption. Thera is a lot of conversations to have – especially when you’re in a couple and have to decide together with your partner.

Online support options after failed IVF

Whenever you feel that there are too many aspects of your situation that you’re not able to deal with, turn to people who can help you get through this. For example, Sarah has a free Facebook support group called TTC Support UK – you’re welcome to join it even if you’re not from the UK. It is where she shares positive advice and tips to help people feel stronger and happy as they’re going through treatment. There are also a lot of people in the group who are supporting one another and answering questions basing on their own experience. Sarah believes that support groups are a great resource for people who are going through treatment. Do not hesitate to look for them, join them and use them in a way that works for you best.

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Questions and Answers from the event

How can I find out more about support group meetings?

I do local support group meetings and face to face meetings so if you are local to the West Yorkshire, then I do have a meeting which I can give you the details of. I have a local Facebook group and I can send you the details of that and the meetings. I’m not sure outside of the UK. It might be that your clinic has a specific group so it’s worth checking with them about the details. If you are in the UK, you can definitely have a look at the Fertility Network’s website and their support group page because it lists all the support groups and meetings that happen. They share them on their Facebook page as they’re coming up – probably they share the information that something is happening the week before.

I’ve already had 12 IVF cycles. The most difficult for me is the time between the cycles. In this time I don’t have any other goal in my life. What can I do with it?

I’m really sorry, I know and it must be really difficult having the 12 failed cycles. Definitely in-between time is hard – if you’ve had a failed cycle and you feel the hope starting to build for the next one. What I would say is take some time out. If you’re in a couple, take time out with your partner and maybe think about a joint goal that you have together. I know it’s really difficult. For a lot of us, being a mum is what we’ve always dreamed of and it’s very hard to imagine anything else in our life. And it’s not that you have to stop that being your goal – but maybe you have to think about other things you’d like to do with the hope that it would still work. I felt very much stuck in a route and my life was on hold. So I focused on the things I wanted to do but I wasn’t doing. It didn’t mean I didn’t want to be a mum – it just meant there are some other things that I wanted to do and they didn’t have to be really big. They can be small things. Maybe you want to take a big holiday somewhere – of course, I know that the current situation isn’t helping with things like that either… So maybe it could be that you want to swap jobs or learn a new hobby. Make a list of the things that you want to do or you’d love to be. As I said, being a mum is still on top of that list but it could be other things as well, for example, a great wife or scientist or another occupation. Think about all the things you’d like to have – that could be material possessions as well. Maybe you’d like to have a certain car or a certain house by a certain time or a certain pair of shoes. You know, it doesn’t have to be anything big. It could be all the things you want to do. Maybe you want to go somewhere particular on holiday or you want to learn how to ski. These don’t have to be big things but thinking about them at least gives you a focus in the meantime and in-between cycles. I really hope that it works for you at some point but if it doesn’t – at least you know you’re building a life that is good for you and that you’re happy with. I hope that helps but if you’re still struggling and you want to ask about any more things, please message me. Please do send me an email and I’ll think about other things I can suggest for you as well.

When it comes to egg donors, what would you suggest as next steps as we’re told there’s a limited number of Asian donors in the UK?

It depends on which clinic you’re with. I know certain clinics have their own egg banks and I know others use egg banks abroad. If there is a limited number of Asian donors in the UK, think how you’d feel about a donor from outside the UK. Certainly, in Asian countries, they will have a bigger donor bank. So have a think about that. If you’re looking at donors anyway, you will probably be asked to speak to a counsellor who may be able to help you with some of those decisions as well. So firstly, I’d check whether your clinic has the limited Asian donors – if so, whether there are other clinics in the UK that have a bigger donor bank, maybe in different areas. You may also look abroad. It means you could still have treatments through a UK clinic that uses a donor bank from outside the UK. Or you could have treatment outside the UK where they have their own donor banks. As I said, if you are looking at having a donor, you will be referred to a counsellor who can help you if you’re not sure about using a donor outside the UK. They may be able to help you work through that and give you some more options as well. And maybe look at the Donor Conception Network and see if they have any more information on where there’s a higher number of Asian donors or what they would recommend doing as well. They’d probably be the best people to speak to for advice on that. Hopefully, they’ll be able to help you.

I’ve had one failed cycle of donor egg IVF in Spain but I have a guarantee plan so I have two more attempts. Does your support group support donor egg IVF as well?

Yes, the online group definitely does it. I don’t restrict it to anybody. The only thing I ask for is if you could answer the questions when you join so that I keep the group safe. It’s just because we have had people join us with spam. But otherwise, I don’t limit it. There are definitely people who have used donors and who are considering using donors and there are people who’ve travelled abroad for treatment as well. I think about it more in terms of in-depth emotional support or speaking to a counsellor as I mentioned before. If you are using a donor, they do ask you to speak to a counsellor about that just to work through some of those emotions. So I think it’s definitely worth having that as well. Also in terms of being able to speak to other people who have already used donors. So definitely you’re more than welcome to join. If you don’t want to post anything yourself, then I can post an anonymous post on my group and people will reply to that. You can see their answers and connect with them if you feel that you are comfortable doing that.

How can you cope after finding out that you can only go for surrogacy now and it is simply too expensive?

It’s really hard if you know that this is your only option. And it’s very sad that price has to come into it. It’s sad that we don’t have a choice in something that is so easy for other people. It always upsets me that it does really come down to the situation when you have to pay for it basically. But again, I would speak to a fertility counsellor to work through some of those things. I don’t know your history and what more options you’ve been through already. But have a speak about the different options – whether it’s something that you could look for in different countries for a smaller cost. Maybe in some countries, there’s no charge for it or the cost for the surrogate and preparing them is included in the IVF cycle. I’m not sure who would be the best person to advise and find out that information. Possibly the Fertility Network but I’m not sure if there are any surrogacy support networks that might be able to advise you. I’m not sure what country you’re in. I’d say look at different countries and whether there are different pricing options in different countries that you could go to. Every country has different regulations. It might be that if you travelled abroad to a different country, you could end up with a lower overall cost. So definitely I’d speak to a fertility counsellor for help if you’ve been advised that surrogacy is your best option of conceiving. If you want to message me separately, please do. I’ll have a think and have research if there’s anybody else that would be worth speaking to. I know it’s really hard to know that your only option is so expensive. I can see you’ve put a comment that you’re hesitating between surrogacy and adoption. I think it’s about working through the different options. That’s where somebody like a fertility counsellor should really come in to speak about those different options and how you feel emotionally about it. In this way, you can start to work out in your head which route is the best for you and talk about the pros and the cons of both options. Because at the end of the day, with any of these options, you’re still getting your family. I think speaking to a fertility counsellor would help you with that. Doing lots of research on both options could help as well – really looking into it and speaking to people in support groups to get some real-life experiences and decide which option might suit you best. I hope that helps and good luck!

How can I cope being diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (POF)?

I think again speaking to other people who have been through that is advisable. There’s somebody called ‘DefiningMum’ on Instagram. She was going through the early menopause and was having premature ovarian failure in her 20s. She’s now being through egg donation abroad. She talks a lot about how she coped with that. Additionally, there are the fertility counsellors. I keep mentioning it again and again but they’re fully specialised in dealing with some of the emotions that go with that. It’s also good to look for real-life people and support groups that are run by them. Becky, the ‘DefiningMum’, has an Instagram page where she does talk a lot about that and she links with other people who also talk about that and the emotions that came up with that. As I say, I’m not sure what point everybody is in their history – whether their best option is to go with a donor or whether they’re willing to try naturally with own eggs first. But I’d just say: find out as much information as you can because there are still options and it’s just thinking about the options that are available to you. So consider speaking to a counsellor about how you feel about that but at the same time, keep looking for real-life examples of how people have made the decisions. It’s also interesting to see how they’re living with those decisions now when they’ve got donor-conceived children. Becky, who runs the ‘DefiningMum’, talks a lot about her donor-conceived children and the bond that she has with them. Do some research and follow the people who’ve been through the same experience as well. And just take care of yourself in all of these things. I think it’s really important to make sure you’re protecting yourself emotionally. So do things that help you relax and make you feel good. Don’t forget to look after yourself while you’re going through it. I hope that helps. If you want to email me, please do and I can send you the details for Becky’s page. If you’d like more information, I can always have a think about it for you.

I would like to try an adoption but my husband doesn’t want it. Should I try to convince him?

It’s hard. It has to be a joint decision for the sake of your relationship. You both need to be fully engaged in it and have made that decision together. From what I believe, the adoption process is not an easy process to go through so you would need to be fully engaged in that. I think it’d be worth trying to work out what the reasons are that he’s reluctant to it. It’d be good to know if he would be willing to look into it and – at least – do more research on it and find out more information just so that he’s not ruling it out straight away. Would he be willing to look into the different options? What would it mean? How would it affect you? What does the process involve? A good idea could be speaking to other people and hearing stories from people who’ve adopted. How did they find the process and how are they finding it now, living with an adopted child? It’s very difficult if one of you wants one thing and the other one doesn’t. So I’d say, it’s just about the communication and asking the questions. The reason he might not want to try it might be something that’s quite easy to answer – or, on the other hand, it might be a really deep-seated reason. You could maybe work it through. If he’s willing to start looking into it, then he might be able to make a decision and you’ll both feel like you’ve made the effort to consider it as an option. So I’d say: yes, encourage him to at least hear more about it so that you can rule it in or out. Tell him that you just would like to have more information so that you can make a decision and ask whether he will support you in researching it. You might find out that he’s more open to it once he knows more. When we were going through it, my husband wouldn’t even want to adopt. But I know somebody who’s a foster parent and when we went out somewhere together, she had one of her fostered children with her. After he’d seen this child and realised that it was a little boy who just needed somebody to love him, he changed his mind and his view on why he would adopt. I think he probably had ruled out adoption at the start, without really thinking about it. So when he actually realised that there are children there who do need loving parents and support, it changed his mind a bit. So it might just be that he doesn’t know enough about it. Just ask him if he will support you in researching it. Hopefully, that helps.

Are there any other ways that we can seek for your advice apart from Facebook and TTC Support UK group?

In terms of getting in touch for advice, you can find me on Instagram and under IVF Positivity Planner which is the coaching journal I’ve written. I post regularly on Instagram with advice and support so you can message me there. You can email me and join the Facebook group. I do offer coaching service so if anybody wants to be coached, you can find me. I also have a website: www.sarahbanks.coach. I have a blog section on there as well. I’ve just posted today about coping through the certain time we’re going through at the moment with coronavirus. So there’s a lot of blog posts on there that might be helpful. You can get in touch with me as well. If you want, you can join the support group, you can read the blog or follow me on Instagram.

Is online coaching possible as well? Can people contact you by e.g. Skype?

Yes, of course. And if you want more information, you can just email me about that. There are lots of ways of supporting: through coaching, through my free groups and through emailing me. As I said, I have a coaching book that I’ve launched called IVF Positivity Planner and you can find information about that on my website and on Instagram if you feel that would support you as well.

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Authors
Sarah Banks

Sarah Banks

Sarah Banks is a Fertility Coach and Mentor who works with patients and clinics to offer a broad range of support to suit each individual’s needs. She has written and published the IVF Positivity Planner, a journal combined with coping strategies and coaching tools to help you feel happier and stronger whilst TTC and going through IVF. She also works with fertility professionals to enhance their patient experience, through staff coaching and training, and creating a support structure that gives patients a range of support options and ensures staff understand their individual responsibility for patient care. Sarah set up and runs two online Fertility support communities, regularly supporting over 2,000 patients, and hosts two local support groups to provide emotional support for those in need. Through her work with fertility clients, and her own personal IVF journey, she has a deep understanding of the impact to emotional and mental health that infertility causes, and the support that is needed.
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Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is an International Patient Coordinator who has been supporting IVF patients for over 2 years. Always eager to help and provide comprehensive information based on her thorough knowledge and experience whether you are just starting or are in the middle of your IVF journey. She’s a customer care specialist with +10 years of experience, worked also in the tourism industry and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. When she’s not taking care of her customers and patients, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things or spending time outdoors.

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