The tough reality of going through fertility treatment

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Going through fertility treatment is not easy. I have been there twice: one with my wife when she did IVF, and once for myself when I did IUI. The second time was as hard as the first. There’s this misconception that once you make the decision to go through fertility treatment, you will get pregnant in no time. Particularly if you are in a same-sex relationship and you don’t have any fertility issues. But that is definitely not the case: even if you don’t have any fertility problems, fertility treatment is no walk in the park, and I am going to tell you why.

#1 Everything with fertility treatments take a lot of time This may vary depending on where you are in the world and what the rules are, but it never goes as fast as you want it to go. From waiting for the appointments, to choosing a sperm donor (if going down that route), to all the tests, failed attempts, etc. Fertility treatment is a waiting game.

I live in New Zealand and here we were on a waiting list for almost 2 years just before we could choose a sperm donor. It then took us more than a year for my wife to conceive our first baby, and about a year for me to conceive our second one. And we consider ourselves lucky as in we both got pregnant in a relatively short time.

If you are planning on going through fertility treatment, know you will need to have a lot patience.

#2 It costs a lot of money I think it’s quite common knowledge that fertility treatment costs a lot, but I don’t think anyone is quite prepared for how much they are going to spend on it until they actually start the process. And the more failed attempts you have, the more it’s going to cost.

What I have always hated about fertility treatment is that there is no guarantee as well, and you have no idea how much money you need to spend (and therefore save before you start) until you actually get pregnant and have the baby. Every attempt you make comes with the extreme stress that if you are not successful this time, you need to dig deeper into your savings.

#3 It’s an emotional rollercoaster It’s going to be a very emotional and stressful journey. There are going to be many ups and downs, the wait is going to kill you some days. I remember staring at the phone for hours after every blood test waiting and hoping to receive a call from the clinic saying that my hormone levels were good enough to proceed. Not to mention the two weeks after IUI or embryo transfer, before you can find out if you are actually pregnant or not: excruciating. Every failed attempt it feels like it will never happen. Every good blood test or any other positive result will make you feel all over the moon.

Depending on whether you are going to share your journey with family and friends or not, it may even be a lonely time. For example, I didn’t want anyone to know other than my wife. I couldn’t bare the thought of giving bad news to people when things were not working out, so I kept everything inside. I also didn’t want anyone in the office to know, in case it could affect my career, so every time I was taking time off for a scan or another test I had to come up with a lie, which I hated doing.

If you take hormones for IVF or to regulate your cycles, your mood may even be off or all over the place, playing a toll on your relationship. Be harmed for lots of laughter but also lots of unexpected tears.

#4 You need to take time off work Tests take time. The eggs retrieval or embryo transfer if doing IVF take time. IUI takes time. Everything with fertility treatment requires time that you will need to take off work. And it often happens last minute, so you can’t give work any notice! Depending on the job you do and how much flexibility you have, it can be extremely hard and stressful.

Like I mentioned earlier, I used to hate to lie to my boss about where I was going and what I was doing. I blamed it almost all on my first daughter being sick all the time. I wonder what my boss was thinking!

#5 Choosing a donor may be harder than you think If you are going down the donor path, know it’s not always straightforward. I remember I had quite a few arguments with my wife about choosing our donors. We had waited for such a long time to be able to see the profiles and choose one, but we never actually discussed what we wanted (or didn’t want) our donor to be. We both assumed it didn’t really matter, as long as we could finally have one! But it did matter, and we discovered we had some disagreements.

Also, some people prefer a known donor, other prefer an unknown one. If you haven’t discussed these thing with your partner in advance, it can create some friction.

What you can do to make it better Here’s some tips on how to make going through fertility treatment a less stressful experience.

  • Talk about the whole process with your partner in advance. Research your options, talk about both your wishes and make sure you are both on the same page before you start. Going through fertility treatment, with its ups and downs, can already test a relationship. You really want to avoid any additional arguments because you haven’t discussed things before you started.

  • Have a support group. Talk to someone about what you are going through. I kept everything inside and was not good for me! I wish I had discovered online support groups earlier. If you don’t want to share your experience with family or friends that you know, at least consider online groups and share your journey with people you don’t know. There are so many families on Instagram sharing their fertility journeys for example. Reading their stories will definitely make you feel less alone.

  • Act sooner rather than later. Like I mentioned above, fertility treatment doesn’t happen fast. Don’t wait too long before getting a clinic appointment. Your biological clock is definitely not waiting with you. I was shocked to find out at one of the appointments that after 35 years old your chances of getting pregnant drastically reduce. Also, if you are in a same-sex relationship and you haven’t actively been trying to get pregnant already, you may not know that you have some fertility issues. I thought my cycle was fine and it was going to be quite easy for me to get pregnant. Turned out I wasn’t even ovulating and I had to start taking hormones! 

Monica is the proud mom of 2 daughters and author of the blog Mum in the woods, where she shares her journey through motherhood. You will find tips and recommendations with regards to pregnancy, childbirth and raising babies.

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