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. There 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.