A failed IVF cycle is devastating. It is completely normal to feel upset, confused, angry, numb and discouraged. But know that you are not alone. As much as it sucks to experience a failed round of IVF, it is common. Unfortunately, IVF is not guaranteed to work. Doctors may give you great odds, but there are no promises in the world of IVF.
Remember that even in the midst of such a painful season, there is still hope. Finding the balance between grieving the past, and having hope for the future is difficult, but it is possible.
6 Things to do After a Failed IVF Cycle
1. Take Time to Grieve and Process
A failed IVF cycle often brings up the feeling of loss; whether that’s the loss of the embryo or the family you had envisioned. It’s SO important to take time to grieve and process this loss. Keep in mind that you and your partner may grieve in different ways, and that’s totally ok. You may feel like crying, talking it out, expressing what you are feeling through art or music, spending time in nature, journaling, moving your body, or crying some more. Do what you need to do to acknowledge and work through the hard feelings and emotions that you are experiencing.
2. Talk to Someone You Trust
One of the ways to process is to talk to someone you trust, like your partner, a close friend or family member, or a mentor or counselor. Sharing what you are going through and how you are feeling is a way to verbally process; it can be healing to get it out, instead of bottling it up inside. Talking to someone you trust also opens the door to receive support and affirmation.
3. Prepare for Your Follow-Up Appointment
After a failed IVF cycle, your fertility clinic will have you schedule a follow-up appointment (sometimes casually called a “WTF appointment”) with your reproductive endocrinologist. At this appointment, your doctor will go over anything that may have contributed to why the embryo did not successfully implant into the uterine wall. For many couples, the reason is unknown. Scientists are still unsure exactly why some embryos implant and others do not.
In preparation for this appointment, spend some time making a list of all of the questions that you would like to ask your doctor. At the same time, be prepared to not get all of your questions answered. Here are some good ones to get you started:
- Do you recommend another cycle?
- What would you change if we did another cycle?
- What would you keep the same if we did another cycle?
- Are there any additional tests you recommend?
- Are there any lifestyle changes you recommend?
4. Consider Your Options
After the follow-up appointment, the next step is to consider your options. Don’t make a decision when emotions are running high. Instead, do your research, weigh the pros and cons of each option, and take all the time you need to contemplate what that best course of action is for you and your partner. Options you may consider include:
- Taking a break
- Doing another round of IVF at the same clinic (check out our guide to preparing for IVF round 2)
- Scheduling a consultation with a doctor at another clinic
- Pursuing additional testing
- Pursuing a different type of treatment
- Egg donor, sperm donor, or embryo donor
You may have glossed over the first item on the list, taking a break, without giving it much thought. It is common for couples to want to continue full steam ahead into the next cycle, or their next option, as soon as possible. We encourage you and your partner to at least consider taking a break. Even if it is just a couple of months, time can give us a better perspective on the situation, allow us to make decisions with a clearer mind, and even save money. The bottom line is: don’t be afraid of taking a break if that’s what you or your partner needs.
5. Take Care of Yourself
IVF takes a toll on your body, and your emotions. Listening to your physical and emotional needs is crucial to overcoming a failed IVF cycle. After IVF, it can take a while for your body to regulate your hormone levels; you may feel extra tired or overly emotional. Go easy on yourself, whether that means canceling plans to take a nap, or scheduling a coffee date to get support from a friend. Your body and mind will thank you!
6. Consider Making Some Lifestyle Changes
If you and your partner decide to continue trying to conceive via IVF, you may consider making researched-based lifestyle changes or doing something to increase fertility that you have not previously tried. Consult your doctor before changing lifestyle factors.
Changing your diet is probably the least fun and hardest to stick with, but it can improve fertility for some individuals. Nutritionist Michelle Strong recommends incorporating more plant-based foods in your diet and avoiding sugar caffeine, alcohol, and gluten when possible. These changes will reduce inflammation and help to balance hormones, which research shows can improve fertility. Her top foods for balancing hormones include pumpkin seeds, avocado, turmeric, spinach, and broccoli.
Other lifestyle factors to consider include:
- Move your body
- Replacing personal care and household products with natural alternatives
As important as it is to work on improving your physical health, it is not worth sacrificing your mental health. If eating healthy 70% of the time is what works for you, great!
A failed IVF cycle is not necessarily where the story ends. It does not rule out the possibility of growing your family, and it is NOT your fault. Keep taking steps forward on your own personal timeline; grieve, process, talk to your doctor, consider your options, go easy on yourself, and slowly but surely, you will make it through.