How to React to a Failed Transfer

The days and weeks following a failed transfer can be a tough time emotionally. It can be difficult to understand how the transfer failed when the embryos looked great and your uterine lining was perfect. While science has evolved to give us incredible insight into pregnancy and IVF technologies, there is still an element of chance. Success rates of pregnancy through IVF are good, and can even be great, but they are not absolute. Failed transfers can and do happen. This does not mean that you will never achieve pregnancy or that it’s a lost cause to continue trying.

Many surrogates tell us they feel some level of guilt following a failed transfer. Thoughts of, “Was it something I did? Something I didn’t do? Something I should have done differently?” are very common. Rest assured that, so long as you followed doctor’s orders and took your medications, the answer is no. A failed transfer is not the result of anything you did or did not do.

Many surrogates also tell us that the relationship with their intended parents can feel different following a failed transfer. Often the intended parents distance themselves and become less communicative than they may have been previously. This often leads to surrogates wondering if the intended parents are blaming them for the failed transfer.

The overwhelming probability is that they are not blaming you, they are just sad that the results were negative. Many intended parents feel as though using IVF with a surrogate is a sure fire way to achieve pregnancy on the first shot. Any setbacks, especially after the long road they’ve likely already travelled on their own prior to surrogacy, can be very difficult for them to manage. They may indeed pull back from your relationship for a time, but this is done solely as a way to manage their own disappointment and sadness, not because they’re upset with you.

Understand that, in most cases, the intended parents are also giving you space to manage your own emotions following a failed transfer. They often worry that you will take the failure hard and need space as well. Don’t be afraid to continue communicating with them during the time between transfers, but understand that their replies may not be as swift or as lengthy as you’ve become accustomed to.

In most cases the relationship will self-regulate and tends to amp up again with the preparation for your next cycle and transfer. If you need to speak with someone about your emotions dealing with the failed transfer or with your relationship with your intended parents during the time between transfers, know that your Surro-Support survey is a good way to initiate communication with our staff. You can also reach out to your case specialist or Dr. Kim to talk. Your emotions are likely completely normal and appropriate, and these sounding boards can offer the support you need to get back on track and ready for your next attempt!

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for intended parents, surrogates and donors. She is the co-owner of Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019) as well as the children's book You Began as a Wish (Independent Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. She has two adult daughters.