A failed IVF cycle isn’t uncommon – but how do you cope with it?
When deciding to start a family the majority of couples take it for granted that conception will happen naturally. It is therefore worrying that the number of people seeking treatment for infertility has dramatically increased. In the UK this is evidenced by a rise in the number of IVF cycles undertaken, with more cycles than ever in 2013, according to a report released in December 2014, by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Disappointingly HFEA also reported that the overall success rate remains unchanged at 25%, or, put another way, 75% of IVF cycles fail.
For this reason, doctors can often recommend that couples invest in three rounds of treatments in order to maximise their chances of IVF success. This article offers ways you can optimise your chances in a cycle and emotionally recover from any failed IVF attempts.
For couples experiencing the devastation of finding out that they have infertility issues, their route to parenthood often suddenly changes from a beautiful dream, to an exhausting round of tests and appointments. Having decided to undergo IVF, the reality is that couples are then set on a path of highs and lows during their treatment cycle.
The anxiety people undergo when waiting for the results of the treatment is often difficult and stressful, then to discover that the cycle has failed brings an enormous sense of loss and frustration. Couples have described their experience as one of immense grief. They were grieving for the potential of a baby lost, and, at the same time, enduring the disappointment that they are not going to be a parent or growing family unit.
This can bring a lot of stress to couples who are left suffering a range of negative emotions including anger, depression, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness. The relationships between the individuals involved, as well as with friends and family members can suffer and lead to feelings of isolation. For women, excessive stress can result in ovulation being disrupted or stopping altogether. This is a clear example of how mental state has a distinct physical effect on the body.
It is often not easy for us to face up to and deal with negative emotions. One’s emotional state is made worse when the subconscious mind (which stores all memories and experiences – remembering everything that has happened) comes into play without the conscious mind being aware.
Although the sub-conscious mind is simply there to protect, it does so by consciously highlighting that if IVF failed before then it is best to avoid the pain and not go through it again as it will not work. This thought patterning results in mixed feelings when it comes to the question “What to do next after IVF has failed?” While the conscious mind is willing to keep trying, the sub-conscious does not want to pursue more pain and IVF failure so therefore chooses to oppose the idea. This bifurcated emotional state, with the subsequent impact on the physical body, thus reduces the chances of a successful conception. Despite being able to appreciate the protective mechanism of the sub-conscious mind, it is easy to see how it also plays a destructive role by creating disorder within the mind and body.
What to do next after IVF has failed?
Step 1 – “Sit in Grief.”
Do not suppress or try to fast-forward this process.
Do this by taking time to sit in meditation (even if this is something new for you), just create a space where you will not be interrupted or feel restricted by your clothing. Simply sit in a peaceful area (out in nature or in your home) where you can be comfortable with your back supported.
- Bring your awareness to where you are feeling the grief in your body. It is energetically stored in your lungs so it would be helpful if you can begin gently lengthening your breath.
- Get in touch with your emotions by sitting with them, reassuring yourself “It is okay and natural to feel this way”.
- After recognising them, breathe them out of the body
If the time is not taken to grieve and deal with the trauma, the feelings won’t go away. Instead they can grow to dominate every aspect of life.
Step 2 – “Create a Refreshed Mindset.”
Prior to next attempting IVF, assisted or natural fertility a refreshed mindset can be created when control of the subconscious mind is regained.
By taking control and eliminating the negativity, it becomes easier to think more clearly, be more focussed and be able to make positive decisions about the fertility journey.
Mind mastery techniques can help to change the control that the mind has of the body. This allows people to manage the impact of stress more effectively, as well as enhance their physiology. Mind mastery will typically consist of one, or more of the following:
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is often taken from Daoist, Buddhist and yogic philosophies. It provides a way of paying attention to, and seeing clearly what is really going on in one’s life by removing the chains we attach to the false patterns of beliefs and emotions of the subconcious mind. It helps to recognise and then step away from these emotional and physiological conditioned reactions to events. Practicing mindfulness allows one to be fully present in their life, relationships and work as such improving the entire quality of existence through enhanced self-awareness.
Meditation, simply put, involves focusing the mind in a way that promotes the ability and intention to reflect, contemplate or quiet the mind. It results in improved health, wellbeing and ability to deal with stress and trauma.
Mind Detox Exercises
By exploring belief systems, it is possible to re-shape negative cellular memory and thought patterns. In doing so one can re-gain control and powerfully think themselves fertile.
Step 3 – “Implement Lifestyle Changes.”
When implementing a new fertile lifestyle it tells the brain that a new strategy is being introduced and it can therefore expect to have a better outcome.
Lifestyle changes can include the introduction of new stress management techniques as well as embracing fertility yoga. According to Fiona Kacz-Boulton, founder of Awakening Fertility, a wonderful relaxation tip offered to her clients as a quick and easy way to reduce stress and prepare the mind for meditation is the “7’s Breath”.
The “7’s Breath”
The “7’s Breath” is a technique whereby you breathe very, very gently, quietly and slowly to the count of 7. That is, 7 seconds on the inhale and 7 seconds on the exhale. If you breathe too fast you will find it difficult to reach a 7 second breath. If you are not used to yogic breathing you can start with 5 second breathing for 7 rounds until you can build up to 7 seconds.
The key is to focus completely on the breath. No future thoughts, no past thoughts, just be present and mindful of how the breath moves the body: how it inflates all four sides of the ribcage and gently fills the abdomen, then you feel all the breath leave so it naturally contracts the abdomen. This abdominal lock recharges your body’s energy reserve as well as brings about a sense of calm and empowerment.
This breath not only helps to restore fertility, by activating the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, it will help you stay calm and keep your body in a harmonious state, thereby optimizing your chances for your next round of IVF treatment too.
Yoga for Infertility
When the body holds stress, tension or fear it blocks the vital life force energy (called “Qi”) from flowing efficiently. In turn, blocked Qi means circulation is inhibited. When circulation is effected it means blood is unable to carry the nutrients to all the cells for optimum health. The sacral band (which governs digestion and the female reproductive system) is the area most impacted by lack of blood flow and circulation as, when you are stressed, all the blood moves to the extremities. As a result your digestive system and reproductive system will suffer.
Step 4 – “Fertility Food: Detox and Reboot”
When the body has suffered the effects of increased hormones, medical intervention and the emotional trauma that a failed IVF treatment may bring, food can be the best medicine to assist in the physical healing process. To quote Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Implementing a mini detox can help you feel completely refreshed. Juice detoxes are popular, so too are MSM (organic food grade sulphur) cleanses or try an easy to follow “Awakening Fertility Morning Detox.”
Awakening Fertility Morning Detox
Every morning squeeze yourself some organic lemon juice, mix with warm water, a dessert spoonful of apple cider vinegar and honey.
Follow with a freshly made raw fruit and vegetable smoothie that can be sipped throughout the morning. Adding SuperFoods to the smoothie is essential so as to feed the body Vitamain C, antioxidants and other nutrient dense foods that keep it functioning optimally, improving egg quality and energy levels.
Foods for Fertility
What one eats is as important as exercising the body and mind. As part of a complementary mind-body detox, it is best to review eating habits.
Here is some food for thought, courtesy of Fertility expert Fiona Kacz-Boulton.
5 Top Fertility Foods That Nature Has Created For You To Easily Remember
- Avocados – Shaped like the womb and take 9 months to develop. The Aztecs called avocado trees “Ahuacatl” (testicle trees) because the fruits grow in pairs. Avocados are therefore beneficial to male and female fertility
- Figs – Grow in pairs, look like testicles and are full of zinc to help with sperm function
- Bananas – Help with erections
- Raspberries – Resemble nipples and help improve cardiovascular health as well as reduce inflammation (essential for mothers-to-be)
- Coconut oil – Keeps everything lubricated and running smoothly
The Post-IVF Road to Recovery: Feeling Safe to Continue Down the Fertility Path
By establishing a physical, mental and emotional recovery plan, the above life changing steps have been designed as the blue prints for a new fertile foundation. These tried and tested strategies can help to build a stronger and more powerful sense of hope and confidence required for the journey.
Additionally, to help overcome the distress of a failed IVF cycle, there are numerous natural fertility consultants and coaches who can offer emotional support. For many people experiencing the trauma, the learning of new stress-reduction techniques, as part of a programme designed to bring positive balance also speeds the recovery time and prepares people for a better result later down the track
Although undergoing an IVF cycle can be a very stressful experience, planning ahead and having coping strategies in place, can give a much greater sense of control. When going into the next IVF cycle or stage of the fertility journey, feeling calm and prepared not only makes the treatment more bearable, but may well increase the chance of success.