How to React to An IVF Failure

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 and uterine lining looked 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.

What are some reasons IVF typically fails?

  • Embryo Quality: If the transferred embryo is too weak or carries internal flaws, a condition called embryonic arrest may occur. This is not a reflection of a problem with the woman’s uterus but of the embryo and its inability to implant.
  • Age of the Eggs: As women age, egg quality begins to decline. So, if an embryo is created with an egg from a woman over 35, then the embryo quality may decrease as a result.
  • Ovarian Response: If a woman’s body does not respond well to fertility medications, then not many eggs will be produced for potential use and embryo creation. This leads to lower chances of a successful IVF procedure.
  • Lifestyle Issues: Smoking and a BMI of over 33 make it more difficult for women to conceive, and surrogates are screened to remove these kinds of risks.

 

What to Do When IVF Fails

Many surrogates tell us they feel some level of guilt following a failed transfer. Rest assured that, so long as you followed doctor’s orders and took your medications, a failed transfer is not the result of anything you did or did not do.

Surrogates also tell us that the relationship with their intended parents can feel different following a failed transfer. The intended parents may distance themselves and become less communicative than they may have been prior to the failed embryo transfer. This can lead to surrogates wondering if the intended parents are blaming them for the failed transfer.

The overwhelming probability is that, while they may be trying to find answers, the intended parents 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 traveled 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 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 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, your Surro-Support survey is a good way to initiate communication with our staff. You can also reach out to your case specialist or a member of Fertility Counseling Services to talk. These sounding boards can offer the support you need to get back on track and ready for your next attempt.

Dr. Kim Bergman

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 Fertility Counseling Services and 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 upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.