Making the decision to continue treatment or not
Cheers, dear readers,
Last week, I focused on the power of community, and our need as fellow humans to feel love, belonging, and acceptance, as well as freedom to self-determination (the right to choose our own path):
“During the difficult times especially, we need support, trust, and respect for our decisions. Don’t question [your infertile friend’s] decision about when to stop treatment, when to adopt, or not to adopt at all… We must stop and remember that real love is about acceptance, and allowing us all to make the choices in our lives that empower each of us, even if your path is different.”
Facing the decision about when to continue IVF treatment and when to stop can be devastatingly difficult. Going through infertility treatment can activate parts of your body, mind and soul that you didn’t even know existed – it affects you at the very core of your being. In the effort to optimize chances of conceiving, type A and non-type A’s alike will turn their lives upside-down trying alternative therapies such as acupuncture, new diets, modified exercise routines, meditation, and so on. This single-minded dedication is all in an effort to seemingly control an essentially uncontrollable situation. It feels maddening, as well as frustrating if each new cycle brings another disappointment. Each person’s journey is completely unique with its own chances of success based on that couple’s particular circumstance. So how do you know when it’s time to continue, and alternately, when it’s time to stop or pause for a break?
Some couples decide from the get-go that as much as they want to have a baby, they won’t go to extreme measures. Others spend years and many thousands of dollars exhausting all their options.
No one can tell you when to stop trying to conceive – that’s a decision you need to make with your partner and doctor – but you may feel more in control of your life if you start thinking early on about how far you’re willing to go to get pregnant. Answering the following questions can help you make this difficult choice.
- What does your doctor say?
Ask your doctor to review the statistics relevant to you: your age, infertility diagnosis, and chance of successful pregnancy given the number of treatment cycles you have already had. Remember that statistics are just that. They are most useful when considered along with the emotional, physical, social, and financial costs of treatment. For help weighing your options, talk to a social worker or psychologist who is well versed in the emotional and medical aspects of fertility problems.
- What fertility treatments won’t you try?
Discuss with your partner about which procedures you’re willing to try and together where you would like to draw the line. After your talk, you might both agree to try everything possible to have a child. Or you may discover that you want to skip some of the more invasive procedures. Speak with your doctor about what is involved in each stage of treatment to help you decide.
- What’s the cost of infertility treatment? (is it worth it and can you afford it?)
No one wants to put a price tag on a baby, but the reality is with a diagnosis of infertility, you have to. Undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) can cost tens of thousands of dollars per try, and in most cases it is not covered by conventional insurance plans. It can be hard to accept the fact that finances could play a role in whether you have a baby added to your family or not – especially when procreation is a fundamental right of all human beings. But you do have to consider your resources, how you are going to use them and when, and how far to go in your quest for family creation.
- How’s your physical and emotional health holding up?
What will another treatment failure feel like? Are you developing other conditions such as fatigue and depression as a result of your treatment? Have you had miscarriages? Can you handle any more disappointments? Each treatment cycle can be experienced as a trauma, and numerous failed cycles or miscarriages can have a significant cumulative impact. Reflect on whether it has become more difficult to recover from the failures and what emotional reserve you have if it happens again.
- How is your relationship with your partner?
Undergoing months or years of fertility treatments can take a toll on your relationship with your partner, no matter how strong it was when you started. You and your partner may have feelings of resentment, guilt, anger, or disappointment. Reflect on why you chose your partner: Was it to create a life with someone you love or just to have children together? Could putting a pause on treatment help you get or return to the love and joy that you share?
Discontinuing treatment is most certainly not an easy decision. It’s difficult to find meaning in the injustice of infertility. Letting go of the hope for your biological child and the experience of pregnancy is life altering. But remaining trapped in what can feel like a state of endless failure can take all the joy from life. Would putting a pause on treatment restore it for you? Depending on the decision that you make, it’s possible that you will feel more in control of your life. Remember that it’s still possible to have a fulfilling life, with or without your own biological children. It just may be different than the one you envisioned. Consider the possibility that the road less traveled is beautiful and possibly just as wonderful.
Please join us next week to hear more about our personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.