How to React After a Failed Transfer

Learning that your embryo transfer did not result in a positive pregnancy test can feel devastating. The doctor said your embryos were perfect, your surrogate’s uterus was perfect, and you were sure the result would be a successful, perfect pregnancy. It is completely normal and understandable to be met with grief, shock, and disbelief when things don’t go as planned.

First of all, understand that while science has evolved to give us incredible insight into pregnancy and IVF technologies, there is still a human element. 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.

As the days and weeks progress, you may notice that your surrogate is distancing herself from you a bit, and may begin to wonder if she’s having a hard time dealing with the failed transfer. As a result, you may begin to give her some space to deal with her feelings.

The truth is, she is very likely feeling some level of guilt, wondering if something she did or did not do was the cause of the failed transfer, and wondering if you may be blaming her. Those emotions, and even her respect of your sadness, will typically cause a surrogate to back off from her previous level of communication. The distancing, often done out of respect, can lead to unintentional hurt feelings.

Surrogates generally follow all instructions from the doctor and their actions play no role in the success or failure of the transfer. However, they still blame themselves. When met with silence from their Intended Parents, surrogates may begin to wonder if you’re blaming them, too. In the weeks that follow a failed transfer, try to use empathy to understand that the failed transfer is hard on the surrogate, as well. Right now she needs to know that she has not lost your trust. The best way to do this is to continue communicating with her. You may find that the bond you share grows deeper and more substantial through the heartache–not just celebratory times.

From experience we know that most relationship issues tend to self-regulate as the next cycle gets underway. While you may find that you’re more reserved this time, you will also find that you’re excited to try again, and that your surrogate is excited as well.

Also understand that it is acceptable to take time and really allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you may have as a result of the failed transfer. If you need to talk things through with your IVF doctor or your case specialist, understand that it is appropriate to reach out to these people and ask whatever questions you may have.

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.