Imagine this………….you are about to go in to your third round of IVF, the thought of the last failed cycle still prominent in your mind. Do you tell anyone this time? Sharing your excitement and hopes with them the last two times just meant they were all eagerly waiting, like you, for a positive result, and then having to face them, tell them it didn’t work, again. Their comforting sighs, cuddles, and pats, saying “it just wasn’t meant to be, it will happen” ……….They are trying to help, trying to be supportive, but their words just open the wound even further. How many times can you do this?
Dealing with the drugs, the injections, the fear, the bloating, not to mention the never-ending emotional turmoil. The endless conversations with your partner, your mother, your sister, your best friend, about will it happen, what if it doesn’t happen, ever?
Many women undergo assisted reproductive treatment and there has been much debate recently about the success of ARTs and how they are reported. Should they report positive results, pregnancies or live births?
One thing we do know is that the goal is to take home a baby! Another thing we know is that this doesn’t happen easily for some and more often than not, not on your first round of treatment. Infertility for the vast majority of women is a marathon not a sprint.
Recently a Danish study** of approximately 20,000 women undergoing ARTs looked at a broader length of time, rather than cycles and also the take home baby rate for women undergoing fertility treatment. They found that after two years, 57% of women had a baby either through IVF or IUI(intrauterine insemination). As time went on, the number of live births went up, 65% within three years and 71% within five years, concluding that overall, the chances are good, but it does take time.
The greatest determinant of success for these women was age. Results showed 80% success for women under 35yrs, 60.5% for 35-40yrs and 26% for 40+yrs. Other determinants of success were a body mass index of women under 30 and non-smoking.
So how do you hang in there? How do you do it? How do you go the distance, keeping your sanity, your relationship and your emotional control?
You need to be able to share with and draw on others. You need to know that someone else knows this rollercoaster ride as well as you do. Someone who understands the disappointment, the rawness, the shame, and the fear.
You need to be able to develop the ability to observe your thoughts and reactions and not get swept away by them. You know, that ability to know when you are thinking and choose where you place your attention so that you survive and not get caught up in the whirlwind of thoughts that batter you daily.
You also need time out of your head. Time in your body, to feel your body again as a friend not an enemy. A place where you can rest your body, and just live in it, not expecting anything of it.
You need to nurture yourself. To find the things you used to do before having a baby became your only pastime. Go back to those things that nourish you, express who you really are, the things that actually make you happy, truly happy.
But of course when your head is telling you that you will only be truly happy when you have a baby, then the struggle will continue. Those invitations will continue to come, people in your life will continue to ask, and you won’t have the answers because you are asking the same thing of yourself.
You don’t need to do this on your own. No matter what road you choose, ARTs or not, infertility can be isolating and soul-destroying, we want to be there so that doesn’t happen. We want to support you on the marathon that is infertility, to give you strength, to give you the skills and share with you as you develop the stamina to get through this and onward towards the joys of parenthood.
**European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology: Abstract O-250, Wednesday 6 July 2016, 10.45 Long-term prognosis of live birth after ART, intrauterine insemination and spontaneous conceptions in women initiating treatment with homologous gametes -- A Danish national cohort study