It can be difficult to come to terms with failed fertility treatments, but when it's time to move on there are places to turn.
There are many reasons people come to the decision not to continue fertility treatment. It may happen when the consultant says there's little or no chance of success. For others, there comes a point at which they can no longer endure the emotional roller coaster of treatments, or the financial cost is too high and they can no longer afford treatment. After several - or many - attempts that haven't resulted in the birth of a baby, a couple may just feel it's time to move on.
For others, there comes a point at which they can no longer endure the emotional roller coaster
At whatever point it's decided to call it a day, it's vital to know the decision has been made without pressure and that the time - and money - spent having treatment hasn't been wasted. There shouldn't be a feeling of personal failure.
Coming to terms
If having children was part of your life plan, accepting that a baby won't be conceived can be extremely distressing and prompt a re-evaluation of life. During this time, there may be many emotional experiences:
- sexual problems
- relationship problems with partner, family and/or friends
- guilt and self-blame
- a sense of helplessness
- a profound sense of loss or bereavement
It's important you make time to work through these. There's no right or wrong way for partners to do so. It may help to talk things over with a relative, friend or a religious faith leader. It can also help to talk to a counsellor or other couples who've been through the same experience.
Alternative ways of having a family
Even if you decide not to have any more attempts at assisted reproduction, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to give up all hope of having a family. There are other ways of becoming a parent.
About 5,000 children are adopted each year in the UK. However, there's very limited opportunity to adopt a young baby (under one year old).
Adoption is likely to work best if it's seen as a positive choice rather than as second best. For this reason, many adoption agencies specify that people who've been trying for a baby using assisted conception leave it six months to a year after completing treatment, to ensure they have come to terms with their infertility.
Overseas Adoption Support and Information Service
Adoption is a complex process - emotionally and legally - so it's important to seek advice. Most agencies emphasise thorough preparation and will work with people before they adopt to help them achieve the best outcome for the child and themselves.
To find out more, contact the British Association for Adoption & Fostering.
It can take time to come to terms with the idea of being childfree. This is especially the case if there has been the hope of a child while going through fertility treatment. The realisation may also come if adoption and surrogacy haven't worked out or aren't possible.
The organisation More to Life, which is affiliated to Infertility Network UK, provides support for couples who are exploring what it may mean to be childfree.
If you're in this situation, it may help to work through the following questions as you try to come to terms with a life without children.
- Why did you want children?
- How might life be better/worse without a child?
- What positive changes in life would children have brought?
- How might positive change be incorporated into a life without children?
- What kind of things will be possible without children?
- What sort of things were enjoyed before the start of infertility treatment? Are those things still attractive?
- What other ambitions can be considered, apart from having children?
- How can new ambitions and aims be made possible?
Remember, a life without children can be as fulfilling and rewarding as one with them. There may also be other opportunities to be involved with children - by taking an interest in and supporting the children of family and friends, for example, or by working with children's charities or in local children's projects.