Deciding to stop IVF treatment

Fertility treatment
Fertility and infertility

With multiple unsuccessful treatment cycles of IVF the inevitable question arises; should we end treatment? This can be an extremely difficult decision that can emotionally test any couple. For Anne and her husband the decision aroused both frustration and sadness.

The journey through IVF treatment brings many emotions to the surface. Couples who undertake the journey are often taken by surprise by the demands that IVF can make. Success and failure are always possibilities. In this program we hear about Anne & Alister's disappointment that is not often talked about but can be a very real part of the IVF journey. In listening to this podcast series please bear in mind that Anne and Alister's experience is not universal, it is their story. This podcast series is not intended to replace or replicate medical advice.


Stopping IVF treatment - deciding to stop treatment

You hear a lot of different story about why people stop.  I think for us it was becoming increasingly apparent that the actual process of treatment wasn’t working very well for us.  Although we had unexplained infertility.  In other words nothing officially wrong, presumably something.  And so we embarked on it with what looked like fairly good prospects - kind of.  I think basically we found that we were getting very few embryos, it was going to cost us an enormous amount to really continue on that basis whereas other people would have one stimulated cycle and have ten embryos out of it and keep them going for a year or so of transfers.  For us it was very slow, and obviously it meant it was a more intrusive process each time as well.

And when people start saying, why don’t you do this, or you’ve had far too many cycles of treatment already.  Why don’t you just stop? It’s too callous and it’s too quick.  I think people like us have to come to that moment in their own time and in their own way.  And certainly there are certainly situations where I’ve known people to say things like, “I’m just going to keep on going until all my eggs have gone, I’m going to have 30 cycles” and all of that.  And even I find myself to some extent questioning that and judging that. 

I know how easy it is to do it but, you feel so vulnerable and fragile, that to have people throw easy solutions at you it kind of pulls away any remaining sense that you’ve got any control over anything.

So we were beginning to wonder about the likelihood really and the probability of it succeeding.  In our case no doctor said to us; stop, this is ridiculous - it’s never going to work.  It was more, it wasn’t clear cut medical it’s obviously not going to happen. Or it’s even very likely it’s not going to happen. It was more a decision we gradually came to.

And actually what happened for us is we did our fifth cycle on, well we were expecting to have a transfer on the same weekend we were going to meet Alistair’s sister’s child for the first time. And actually the first, at that point, the first nephew or niece we would meet from within either family.  So it w as a big deal.  Very traumatic weekend.  The transfer got cancelled because the embryo died.  It was awful.

We got through the weekend somehow.  And then we were doing a sponsored walk. So we had this big endurance event coming up and we thought we can’t have treatment between now and then.  If we get pregnant I’ll have to drop out.  I think we just wanted a break anyway. We’d had five cycles in just over a year and none of them had resulted in a pregnancy.  And so it had been a big emotional roller coaster.  And we were sick of throwing our money into it really.

And so we took a few months off. We thought we’d do this other thing we needed to do, this endurance event, then see how we feel.  And it got to the other side of the endurance event and it’d been about six... I think we’d been on holiday or something.  It had been about six months and thought I wonder how it would be.

I started to play about in my own mind; what would it be like not to go back into treatment? I was heading for 40 that year as well, it was 2006.  And I kind of feel well that had been in my mind, a bit of a border, a boundary. I think a lot of people have some sort of idea whether it’s the number of cycles or an age or something. But I wasn’t wedded to it, I was prepared to shift it. But after six months of not being treated and starting to toy with the idea of not going back to it, it just became very attractive - the idea of not going back for treatment.

And we started to think perhaps... perhaps we could have a life without children, maybe. Which certainly didn’t in any sense feel like an easy thing but it was starting to tempt us.  So that’s really what happened.  We didn’t go back for treatment.  And then since then we’ve tried to re-direct really.


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