What to do when IVF hasn't worked

What to do when IVF hasn't worked

By Lucy Coffin on 4/9/2020

Let’s just acknowledge that when this happens it is agonising. It’s the most bitter and devastating disappointment and when you are in it you feel petrified that you won’t be able to get through it. 

I promise that you will. 

Right now you are in the deepest grief. But the human form is bizarrely resilient and we have a built in recovery system that takes us through the stages of grief in order to help us find a way through to the other side. Even if you do nothing at all and lie on your bathroom floor for hours and days, something inside you will insist that you get well again. 

So first up, trust your body and your heart. Let it break, let the tears flow, let the stages of numb, rage, and fury ebb and flow as they take you over. Take time to be in this grief if you are able to. If you have to head back to work then make sure you create some private pockets of time for you to process the emotions. 

Physically I can tell you that once you start to fully bleed, that often begins the next wave of recovery and you often feel a little lighter once that starts to happen and your hormones find their next flow.

There are several courses of action from here depending on where you are at in your journey, and I am going to try to address as many as I can. 

  1. You are planning to have IVF again.
  2. This was your last chance at IVF and you already had an idea of where you might head to from here. 
  3. You have no earthly idea what on earth you are going to do now and that terrifies you. 

You are planning to have IVF again

First up, don’t ever feel like because one cycle, two, or even three plus cycles haven’t worked that IVF can never work. It’s extremely normal for it to take up to 3 transfers to get pregnant. If you have had more than this already then we can take everything we have learned from your previous IVF to pinpoint where your missing answers might be. 

I would highly recommend reading my blog entitled - 5 Avoidable reasons why IVF fails. 

Essentially we can look at:

How did you stimulate - was it the best result or does the protocol need tweaking?

How was the quality of the embryos? Do you need to focus on improving fertilisation quality by working on sperm and egg quality?

What was your cycle like before IVF? We would look at how your ovaries function, what your luteal phase (the second half of your cycle) is like, and how you bleed to get a good insight into how receptible your lining is to implantation (and how best to optimise it). 

Is there anything going on emotionally or spiritually that you feel may be creating some blocks? 

There will be a gentle and inviting way forward once you can pinpoint where your cycle may need that extra support. If you need help working this stuff out please always do get in touch with us. 

This was your last chance at IVF and you already have an idea of where you might head to from here. 

Take your time to sit with how you feel, and remember you are in charge of things and you are allowed to change your mind on anything if you feel inclined to. We often make a plan because we need some structure, and usually it’s what we stick to, but we don’t always know how we will feel, so just be ready to respect your feelings if they start to insist that they aren’t feeling good about the original plan. 

If you have decided that you will let IVF go now and move on to another route, whether that is trying naturally, adoption, surrogacy, donor cycle, or to completely move on and find a new door for your life then seek out some support to help you grieve and be ready to take the next steps. 

It’s a deep process to change tack and it’s really important you have special sacred space and support to navigate the challenging feelings and practicalities that can emerge. All of this is normal, but it can be hard to deal with on your own. 

We are here to provide counselling, relaxing healing resources and treatments and of course practical advice for how to take next steps. 

NB Sometimes a next step is just working out how to get through the hours of each day until things feel more settled (and they will settle. All by themselves, the cracks of light will come in).

You have no earthly idea what on earth you are going to do now and that terrifies you. 

Many people find themselves here. We humans do not feel comfortable without a plan. We love certainty and goals, so we feel extremely vulnerable and scared when we are left without a sense of where to go next. 

But it’s very very normal to be here. 

And forcing a plan just to ease the mental discomfort is often a long route down an unhelpful diversion. 

The not knowing is actually a very productive part of the process. Use this time to really listen in to your body and your feelings. Let them dart back and forth, let them ‘try on ideas for size’. Make a decision and allow it to be purely experimental. Sit with the decision and see how it makes youf eel. What questions comes up, what feelings? Remember you aren’t trying to make a final decision, and you aren’t bound by anything you think about. You are simply exploring in your own private space and giving yourself a chance to see what things come up. 

You may need a few weeks to let the dust settle, and to concentrate just on simple every day self care. Drink enough water, breathe. Cancel social plans or make social plans. What ever brings you most ease. Maybe let yourself be drawn in which ever direction presents itself. It maybe you want a big blow out for a while and then the desire to eat and drink well returns. Or maybe you feel drawn to certain healthy practices. There are no rights and wrongs at this stage, just what you feel drawn to as easiest and most right. 

Don’t set any deadlines. Be brave enough to just allow the fact that you need some time to see how things unfold. You hormonally need some weeks to let the drugs come out of your systems so your hormones can truly represent your actual feelings rather than be dragging you more in one direction than is actually true for you. 

You might not know until you know. 

But jumping into a plan out of panic is never a good idea and it won’t get you to the outcome any sooner. 

It’s ok to take some time. Days. Weeks. Months. A lot can happen even in hours when you gift yourself that space. 

Please get in touch with us if we can support you through this and help you find your way. We can’t even express to you how many hundreds of women we have seen go through the devastation of failed IVF only to go on and have their perfect endings (even if they look different to how they first envisaged they might be). If you can feel someone knocking on that door and wanting to be with you then in our experience, it’s because there really is someone. And you will find them. 

With much love. 

Lucy x