Updated: Aug 16
Unsuccessful IVF? What Happens Now??
IVF is a rollercoaster.
For a long time your whole life has been focused on one point in time, a point that shifts as you pass through the IVF process. Shifting goalposts, but always with the idea that there could be a positive outcome . . .
· Will you get the all clear at baseline scan to go ahead?
· Will there be any eggs to collect?
· Will they fertilise?
· Will they reach day 3?
· Will they reach day 5?
· And finally after a Two Week Wait that seems to take 5yrs . . . will the test show a positive result????
But what if that result is negative?
There is a huge void.
It may feel as though you have been left hanging in mid air.
Your world may feel it is crashing down around you.
An unsuccessful IVF cycle is a huge, traumatic loss; a loss of all your hopes and dreams.
It will leave you reeling.
Your clinic may contact you to see how the cycle ended, though in some cases, they don’t and the lack of communication and aftercare can feel deafening. If you have had an unsuccessful cycle, they may recommend you dive straight back in for another cycle, or recommend you pause for a cycle or two to recover and then try again.
Pause; Take Stock; Seek Advice.
I am frequently contacted by people who are in this phase. All their hopes and dreams were pinned on the IVF cycle that was unsuccessful and the aftermath is brutal. While it is tempting to throw everything at another attempt straight away, I would urge you to pause for a while and take stock before making any decision about that, before deciding when, and before deciding where.
Why Did The IVF Cycle Fail?
Although it is often difficult to be sure why an IVF cycle failed, there are clues in how the cycle progressed which can suggest areas to investigate further or areas that need additional support.
If the lion’s share of embryos failed to progress from day 3 to day 5, it may be worth digging a little bit deeper into the male factor.
If everything went really well, and yet implantation failed, it may be worth checking thyroid function, iron and ferritin levels, vitamin D and MTHFR issues and the male factor.
If implantation appeared to be successful and you lost the pregnancy a few weeks later, it may be worth checking the same as above.
If you have had multiple IVF cycles with implantation failure or early loss and all the basics such as thyroid, vitamin D an MTHFR look OK, then male factor needs to be investigated further, and reproductive immunology issues may be in play.
If the eggs disintegrated before, during or after harvest, it may be worth looking deeper into the woman’s internal environment, possibly with the aid of a functional medicine practitioner.
I will pick through everything, on the presumption that there is a reason that the IVF cycle failed and that if I look hard enough, I will find it. By finding it, I stand a chance of being able to help you to fix it – whether that is through the acupuncture and menstrual cycle support that I provide or through brining in additional expert guidance. I frequently recommend my clients also work with a functional medicine nutritionist, pelvic/visceral osteopath, urologist, endocrinologist or reproductive immunology consultant.
Is it Time to Change IVF Clinic?
If you have been with the same clinic for multiple unsuccessful IVF cycles, it may be tempting to stay with them; you know them, they know your history, you feel comfortable there. But if they are running the same protocol on the same person and expecting different results, I would recommend at least discussing your case with a couple of alternative clinics to see whether they would work differently with you.
Sometimes a new clinic, with a new protocol and a different embryology team can produce a better outcome, and it is not unusual for someone to get a different outcome with a different clinic. Equally if a clinic is working well with you, adapting their protocol to take into account your previous cycle, then it may be better to stay with them. And there is an argument to say that if you change clinic each cycle, that you don’t give anyone a chance to adapt their protocol to your particular response.
Either way, I would always urge you to approach choosing the clinic for each round of IVF with the same vigour as you applied to choosing your initial clinic. Don’t let the relationship you have built with your existing clinic staff be a deciding factor in where you choose to go for your next cycle.
When it comes to choosing a new clinic, I would strongly recommend you refer to the HFEA for guidance. While it is important to work with a clinic that has a good success rate, choosing a clinic solely based on their own published success rate figures is not advised – clinics are very good at presenting their data in a positive way, and what may be successful for you is not the same as what may be successful for their average client. You need to choose a clinic that would work well with your situation and circumstances.
And Allow Yourself Time to Heal
Try to resist the urge to race straight into another cycle, respect that your body and your heart probably both need a little time to recover and to heal. Even if you are worried about your ovaries getting older each month, allowing your system to rest and recover may produce a better result next time than if you were to run from cycle to cycle.
Acupuncture can help you to process everything and can help you to hold things together until your feet are back on solid ground again. If you work with a Fertility Support Trained Acupuncturist, you will be able to simultaneously work on healing from your unsuccessful IVF, explore some of the possible potential causes, and prepare both physically and mentally for your next step.
If it would be helpful, we could arrange a Zoom consultation to talk over your situation. With my knowledge and experience I may be able to offer you some useful advice about what to do next. If that would be of interest, please get in touch.
Alexandra O'Connor LicAc MBAcC
Fertility Acupuncture Specialist & Fertility Mentor
www.essexfertility.co.uk (Essex & Moorgate)