8 Reasons Why IVF is so Challenging


Understanding IVF Challenges: 8 Reasons Why
8 Reasons Why IVF is so Challenging

As difficult as this topic is for so many, acknowledgment of fertility struggles and IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is vital for those undergoing it. 1 in 6 couples struggle with infertility yet this topic often lurks in the shadows of whispered conversations. Embarking on the path of IVF isn’t just a medical procedure – it’s a rollercoaster of emotions, a test of resilience, a strain on every layer of your life and a journey that challenges the very core of your being.

So, why is IVF so darn hard?

Some reasons include:

  1. Emotional Turmoil: IVF is a journey fraught with emotional highs and lows that can leave you feeling like you’re riding a wild wave in the middle of a stormy sea without a surf board, alone. From the initial hopefulness of starting treatment to the heart-wrenching disappointment of failed cycles, each step is accompanied by a whirlwind of emotions – hope, fear, anticipation, grief, loneliness (even if you’re doing it with a supportive partner) and sometimes even guilt. It presses on you to navigate a tangle of feelings with no clear end in sight and no guarantees.
  2. Physical Strain: IVF places a significant toll on your physical well-being. The endless rounds of injections, blood tests, and invasive procedures can leave your body feeling battered, bruised, poked, prodded, and sometimes violated. Hormonal fluctuations wreak havoc on your system, leading to mood swings, fatigue, and discomfort. And, let’s not forget the dreaded two-week wait (TWW) – a period of agonizing uncertainty where every twinge is dissected under a microscope of anxiety and every anxiety is then mentally shunned for causing increased stress that could contribute to a failed outcome. Circle back to #1 above (Emotional Turmoil).
  3. Financial Burden: For many people, the financial burden of fertility treatments add an extra layer of stress to an already overwhelming experience. IVF is extremely expensive, even when health insurance offers some financial support. Some of the costs include: consultation fees, medication costs, genetic testing, scans and blood tests, egg and embryo storage, thawing costs, required psychological consultations, out-of-pocket anesthesia, and so much more. The hefty price tag of each IVF cycle can feel like a heavy weight pressing down on your shoulders, casting a shadow of doubt on your dreams of parenthood.
  4. Time Suck: IVF can be an unpaid part-time job. Resolving insurance and clinic billing (which is often hard to decode and incorrect), locating tough-to-acquire prescriptions, arranging for pick-up or shipment of medications, commuting to and from the many appointments, taking off days from work to undergo and recover from procedures are many of the ways in which IVF stealthily robs your time. The cycle of emotional and physical struggle can feel like torture, where days and months are on repeat, with time being of the essence.
  5. Social Stigma: Despite the growing awareness and acceptance of infertility struggles, there’s still a lingering stigma surrounding IVF. Whether it’s the awkward questions from well-meaning friends and family, the subtle judgment from society at large, the divisive political landscape, navigating infertility is often an isolating experience. The pressure to keep up appearances can impact your mental health, leaving you feeling misunderstood and alone, not to mention exhausted from feeling a pressure cover up such a major internal struggle. Once again, circle back to #1 above (Emotional Turmoil)…and so the cycle of pain continues to loop.
  6. Grief and Loss: The journey of IVF is laden with a myriad of losses — the loss of control, the loss of familiarity, the loss of privacy, and the loss of what could have been. It’s a journey marked by the loss of connection with partners, friends, and loved ones as you navigate through the intricate web of emotions and treatments. There’s the tangible loss too – the embryos that didn’t survive to transfer, the heart-wrenching experience of miscarriages. Amidst these losses, there’s the also the loss of the idealized vision you once held of starting a family. When you first embarked on the journey toward parenthood, you likely envisioned a smooth path, devoid of the hurdles and heartaches that IVF presents. The contrast between what you imagined and what you’re experiencing can be crushing. There’s a painful reconciling of the gap between expectation and reality. The death of that fantasy is a loss in itself – grieving for what could have been, for the ease and simplicity you envisioned but never materialized.
  7. Confronting Unfairness: The unfairness can hit hard as you observe the haves and the have-nots in the fertility arena. While some people effortlessly stroll into parenthood, your journey is an uphill battle. You witness pregnancies sprouting up around you, some even by accident, while you need to plan every step of your fertility journey. There’s the heartache of enduring a grueling IVF journey, only to witness others sail through IVF with better outcomes. For some, finances pose no barrier, while for others, it’s a cruel block to their dreams of conceiving. The inequities are glaring, the mysteries perplexing, and the pain palpable. It’s just not fair.
  8. Prevailing Uncertainty: Perhaps the hardest part of the process is the uncertainty that comes with every step of the way. Despite the meticulous planning, obsessional research, experts at the helm, the endless prayers, and unwavering determination, there are no guarantees in the world of fertility treatments. Each cycle is a gamble – a delicate balance between hope and despair, with each outcome hanging in the balance. When the results of each step are finally in, whether positive or negative, it’s a moment of reckoning – a crossroads where dreams collide with reality, and you’re left to pick up the pieces and carry on.

If you’re walking the path of IVF, know that you’re not alone.

I, too, have been in the IVF trenches, white-knuckling through some very long years. Having a therapist who was IVF-competent and truly understood the complexities I was experiencing made a huge difference in my ability to manage the emotional upheaval of treatment and thereafter.

I have the privilege and honor of helping others who are in the same rocky boat that I was in some time ago. While everyone’s specific IVF journey is different, I have a deep understanding of the IVF process, the language, as well as tools to help you manage the IVF whirlwind. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for a complimentary consultation.

Rachel Shanken, Somatic Fertility Therapist in New York City