In my late 20s and childless, I can’t possibly imagine the experience of someone who’s been through in vitro fertilization (IVF). What I would like to do, though, is have an open discussion about the bittersweet journey of IVF for those couples that have experienced it.
From the start, I’d like to apologize for anything missing here, as a journalist, my role is to share the facts and the reality of what seems to be an unrealistic dream sold to many couples struggling with fertility as the only viable solution to having a child. If you’re interested in what I have to say, please keep reading. If not, stop here.
I also want to open this space for couples who have experienced the IVF journey. If you’d like to share your story, share it here.
The Uncomfortable Realities of IVF
There are about 33% of Americans who say they’ve tried a fertility treatment or know someone who has tried these treatments in the hopes of having a child. The treatment that sells the most hope? IVF. That’s because, on the latest report, it’s estimated that close to one million babies were born through an in vitro fertilization treatment. Can you blame them for trying?
However, for those who’ve tried IVF in the past, they know too well that the selling points – success rate, established protocol, and pricing options – are not so accurate. For years, the fertility industry – yes, that’s an industry that will be worth $41.4 billion by 2026 – has sold IVF treatments like the one and only procedure to ensure a child.
Here are some of the realities people going through IVF know all too well.
There’s No Guarantee
In many cases, IVF is regarded as the ultimate solution for infertile people to conceive. However, the chances of having a full-term, normal birth are 21.3 percent for women under 35. These numbers go down to 17 percent change for women under 37 and keep going down to 0.6 percent for women over 44.
Unlike what most people believe, birth rates and pregnancy rates are not the same. Even when an IVF cycle is successful, there’s no guarantee that you get to bring home a healthy, live baby. The chances of miscarriage on IVF average anywhere between 15% to 20%.
It’s Not Just for Infertile Couples
Most people believe IVF is the only option for couples that have tried forever to have a child and have been unsuccessful. About 3 million women in the US experience secondary infertility, which happens when a woman is unable to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy successfully after previous success in doing so.
Also, those who are not ready to have children right now, but would like to have them in the future have to think about treatments like IVF. Getting pregnant is not always easy, and considering fertility earlier in the game, might help your chances of conceiving. Those in their 20s should speak to their primary doctor about their fertility. This can help them make sure that everything is “normal” and give hope that, when the moment comes, their bodies will be ready.
It Takes Time & Money
The average IVF cycle takes about four to six weeks to complete. However, the average women went through 2.7 cycles of IVF before conceiving. That’s close to 16.2 weeks before the treatment is successful. Not to mention, every cycle can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $7,000, which means it might cost close to $20,000 for a viable pregnancy.
While there’s no denying that IVF is an expensive treatment, many couples will argue it was worth the expense. Compared to other alternatives, such as adoption, which can escalate to $40,000, this might be true. However, there’s an underlying cost with IVF treatments since there’s a physical and emotional toll that you can’t put a dollar sign on.
Hop on the IVF Rollercoaster
One of the sometimes-discussed aspects of IVF is the toll on mental health. As if dealing with infertility wasn’t enough, IVF sends your body on a hormonal rollercoaster that’s unlike anything else. But the psychological toll doesn’t affect the person receiving the IVF alone, it affects everyone around them. Male fertility is also a huge issue that can be impacted by IVF treatments, where men also experience the grief of unsuccessful cycles.
While there isn’t evidence that links IVF directly to mental illness, some studies do suggest a connection. One study found that women seeking assisted reproductive treatment were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, and 17% of them with depression.
The (Sometimes) Sweet End
However, there’s no doubt that for those who IVF proved successful for, the rewards are immeasurable. I’ve personally witnessed the uncontrollable joy of bringing a healthy baby into the world after years of IVF cycles. Yet, when I’ve asked them if they’d do it again, the response was a clear and resounding “no.”
IVF is, by far, one of the most significant advances in fertility treatment, no one says otherwise. However, there’s a sense that this treatment is the only solution for those looking to bear a child. To those who experienced this journey, I salute you, you’re strong, regardless of the outcome. To those who decided to walk away from IVF, I salute you, as well.
Once again, I’m nobody to explain the bittersweet journey of IVF. So, if you’ve been there and want to share your experience with a caring community, we are here for you. Submit your IVF journey story here.