Assisted reproduction treatments have high success rates, but these rates are only statistical data. The circumstances of each person and each embryo are different in each attempt and treatment. Therefore, it is difficult to predict how the process will go exactly. In addition, many factors must be taken into account: the mother’s age, lifestyle and uterine receptivity, and the embryo’s own ability to implant and develop, even if it is of good quality. Even in egg donation treatments, where the egg donor is always a young woman, failures do occur.
But even if we are aware of this, the news of failure always brings disappointment. Therefore, we must learn how to manage these emotions. “Sadness, anger, rage, frustration, discouragement, feelings of guilt and apathy are some of the most common emotions”, explains Sandra G. Lumbreras, head of the Psychology Unit at Dexeus Mujer. “Patients also look for something or someone to blame. Since fertility treatments require human intervention, patients often consider that the failure is external, and they sometimes lose faith in the fertility centre, their doctor or the procedure. This is not helpful, as it increases emotional distress,” she adds.
“The best way to get over this setback is, first and foremost, to get rid of any feelings of guilt towards oneself and towards others, as well as to make some changes that will strengthen the patient’s sense of confidence and control over the process,” explains Sandra. It is often difficult to determine precisely what has gone wrong, but you can make changes to feel better prepared and stronger, both physically and emotionally. Exercising more, avoiding stress as much as possible or taking a few days off if possible, watching your diet and changing your routines are some ideas that can help you feel better for your next attempt.
It is also important not to have any lingering doubts, and to openly express what you feel – both positive and negative. You should ask your doctor everything you need to know and discuss your options from a realistic point of view, especially if you have had several unsuccessful attempts or miscarriages. Don’t rule out asking for emotional or psychological support.
If you have had recurrent miscarriages, it may be necessary to carry out a genetic study to check if there is a problem affecting your fertility or that can cause chromosomal alterations in the embryo. Seek medical advice and give yourself some time before deciding on the next step you want to take. Don’t let others take control or make you feel that they are deciding for you. It is important that you feel actively involved in the decision making.
In any case, “although the feelings caused by an unsuccessful treatment are similar in most cases, in order to help a patient, it is essential to take into account the personal situation of each individual patient,” explains Sandra G. Lumbreras. “It is not the same to face a failed treatment if you still have several embryos than if you only have one left or if you have none left at all. Nor do you feel the same pressure when you are 38 years old as when you are 45, or if it is the first unsuccessful treatment or the third,” she adds. “The harder it is to achieve a pregnancy, the harder it is to come to terms with failure and to get your hopes up again for another attempt. For this reason, it is important to know from the outset what your options are and to plan, more or less, for how long you are willing to keep trying. Also, when the time comes, you must be open to other options, such as fostering or adoption, or even considering life without children,” she adds.
Another fundamental aspect that can help in this process is the emotional support you receive from your partner or family, as well as your economic and work situation. The economic factor weighs heavily and influences the pressure that each patient puts on herself and, at the same time, on the fertility centre and the medical team. “This aspect has a great impact on a personal level because it implies more anxiety and added stress”, says Sandra G. Lumbreras.
Disagreements or differences of opinion between a couple, especially when one insists on trying and the other simply goes along with it, wear down the relationship and influence the patient’s mood, which can affect the treatment outcome. This is why it is vital to take care of your relationship throughout the process, to be open and mutually supportive and, most importantly, to keep in mind that your project as a couple comes before the family project.
“Another recommendation I also give to patients is to allow time to pass between a failed treatment and a new attempt, if possible,” explains Sandra. Time allows you to put some distance and see things with greater perspective. It also helps to reflect and better assess the situation and alternatives available.
It is also essential to have other life projects and not let your life revolve exclusively around fertility treatments and motherhood. You should carry on with your usual activities, socialise with friends and family, and favour all the little things that improve your emotional wellbeing. Life offers you many things to enjoy.