When Is It Time To Give Up on a Fertility Treatment and how to deal with it?

By (psychologist), (embryologist), (gynecologist), (embryologist) and .
Last Update: 04/13/2023

Infertility has increased in recent years and more and more couples are turning to assisted reproduction clinics to have a child. In addition, female couples, women who wish to become single mothers and patients who wish to avoid transmitting any type of genetic disease to their offspring also resort to this type of technique.

These patients wish to fulfill their dream and achieve the expected pregnancy and have a healthy baby at home. However, although thousands of babies are born every year thanks to assisted reproduction treatments, this happy outcome is not always achieved. Therefore, undergoing these treatments involves a significant wear and tear at various levels that can even affect the well-being of patients and their relationship with their partner (if there is one).

Because of all this, there is a point at which patients may consider saying "this is itthis is it".

Why is fertility treatment so hard?

Not achieving pregnancy and assuming that there are fertility problems in the couple and the need for assisted reproduction generates a myriad of emotions and an accumulation of new feelings that must be managed.

This is not the case for female couples or women who wish to become single mothers, since assisted reproduction is the only way to achieve their dream. However, in any case, an assisted reproduction treatment generates physical and emotional wear and tear: the different visits to the clinic, the hormone treatment, the uncertainty about the result, the disappointment or frustration if there has been no success...

Each woman or couple experiences their fertility treatment in a different way. However, when you have not been able to have a baby, especially after several attempts, the wear and tear is more evident. In addition, discouragement and hopelessness begin to appear and must be fought against.

On the other hand, assisted reproduction treatments have a high cost, so we cannot forget about the financial burden as well.

It is important to mention that many patients decide not to tell family and/or friends and go through the whole situation alone. It is even possible that there is a lack of communication in the couple that generates conflicts and problems in the relationship.

Myths about assisted reproduction

There are several reasons why a woman or couple decides to abandon assisted reproduction treatments after several unsuccessful attempts. In fact, the reasons may be as varied as the particular situation of each person or couple. However, among the reasons for deciding to stop and not do any more fertility treatments is:

  • Emotional and psychological situation: feeling of inability to withstand the stress of facing a new treatment.
  • Poor evolution of previous treatments.
  • Non-acceptance of gamete or embryo donation.
  • The partner or patient does not have sufficient financial resources to afford the cost of another treatment.
  • Gestation has been obtained in a natural way.

Finally, there are patients who are more or less clear that they will seek pregnancy until they reach a certain number of cycles or that they will keep trying until a certain age and, when they reach that proposed limit, abandon assisted reproduction treatments despite not having fulfilled their dream.

In any case, the decision to abandon fertility treatments is solely and exclusively that of the patient or couple. Specialist physicians will advise and counsel on the options available, but they will never be the ones to make the final decision.

However, a possible exception is when there is a medical contraindication to continue pursuing gestation. Assisted reproductive techniques can only be performed when they do not pose serious risks to the woman or the potential offspring.

The importance of psychological support

When starting a reproductive treatment, it is essential to manifest a good emotional state. The illusion and desire to achieve pregnancy must overcome fears and doubts.

If the emotional effort generated before and during the reproductive process is added to the possible failures, it is easy to understand that one cannot muster the necessary strength to continue trying and finally decides to give up.

In this sense, psychological support from professionals before, during and after assisted reproduction treatment is essential. Nowadays, many reproduction clinics have specialized psychologists who advise and help patients to manage all these emotions and reduce anxiety.

Coping with abandonment of fertility treatments

Abandoning assisted reproduction treatments is really hard and difficult. Saying "so far" means putting an end to a dream without having fulfilled it, in spite of the previous effort and wear and tear. In addition, it is common for many doubts to arise, since no one knows if the next attempt will be the definitive one.

Patients who have left fertility treatments without success will have to go through their own grief and, perhaps, without the understanding of others around them. Therefore, psychological support may also be necessary in this situation.

However, abandoning assisted reproduction techniques does not mean giving up the idea of starting a family. There is the possibility of trying again if the situation has changed or if the necessary resources have been acquired to face a new attempt, but there are also other ways, such as adoption.

FAQs from users

What is psychological support during fertility treatment?

By Carolina Freire Ortega (psychologist).

Psychological support throughout the assisted reproduction process helps the well-being of the woman and/or couple. In addition, psychologists help to reduce the negative effects of situations that generate discomfort, as they provide a response at each stage of the reproductive process.
Read more

What happens if I don't get pregnant the first time after IVF?

By Eric Saucedo de la Llata M.D. (gynecologist).

Sometimes pregnancy is not achieved with the first transfer. If there are vitrified embryos, a second transfer can be performed.

If there are no vitrified embryos from the first follicular aspiration, a second IVF cycle can be performed with the advantage of being able to take into account all the information provided by the first cycle. This information is usually very valuable for deciding on actions such as changes in the ovarian stimulation pattern, measures to improve embryo transfer, such as performing a hysteroscopy, and even the possibility of performing a laparoscopy, which can help diagnose hidden pathology such as endometriosis.

Imagen: unplanned-after-first-IVF-embarrassment

It is very important the attitude that is taken before a negative first cycle of assisted reproduction. Being aware that success often does not come the first time can lessen the sadness in the face of a negative result. Specialized psychological support has shown advantages in subsequent cycles.

How many IVFs can be done before abandoning assisted reproductive treatments?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

Although it is true that there is no legal limitation on the number of IVF attempts, the expected success rate should be taken into account according to the particular situation of each case, in order to avoid treatments with little guarantee of success.

The most widespread recommendation is to perform 3-4 IVF cycles. However, in the case of not having been successful in this number of attempts, the woman or couple could resort to gamete or embryo donation before abandoning assisted reproduction treatments, if the woman or couple wishes to do so.

Suggested for you

In this article we have mentioned the importance of psychological support during fertility treatment. If you want to know more about the psychological aspects of assisted reproduction, we recommend you to visit this link: Psychological aspects of assisted reproduction.

On the other hand, if you want to know how many attempts it is advisable to make in assisted reproduction, you can read the following article: How many attempts is it advisable to make in assisted reproduction?

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Ghorbani M, Hosseini FS, Yunesian M, Keramat A. Dropout of infertility treatments and related factors among infertile couples. Reprod Health. 2020 Dec 2;17(1):192. (View)

Ghorbani M, Hoseini FS, Yunesian M, Salehin S, Keramat A, Nasiri S. A systematic review and meta-analysis on dropout of infertility treatments and related reasons/factors. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2022 Aug;42(6):1642-1652. (View)

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Zhang L, Shao H, Huo M, Chen J, Tao M, Liu Z. Prevalence and associated risk factors for anxiety and depression in infertile couples of ART treatment: a cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Sep 19;22(1):616. (View)

FAQs from users: 'What is psychological support during fertility treatment?', 'What happens if I don't get pregnant the first time after IVF?' and 'How many IVFs can be done before abandoning assisted reproductive treatments?'.

Read more

Authors and contributors

 Carolina  Freire Ortega
Carolina Freire Ortega
Carolina studied psychology at the University of Alcalá in Madrid, and is also a laboratory technician and diagnostic clinician. In addition, Carolina has serveral qualifications in the field of psychology. More information about Carolina Freire Ortega
collegiate number: 36239-M
 Cristina Mestre Ferrer
Cristina Mestre Ferrer
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences, Genetics & Human Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV). Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the UV and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Embryologist at IVI Barcelona. More information about Cristina Mestre Ferrer
 Eric Saucedo de la Llata
Eric Saucedo de la Llata
Dr. Eric Saucedo de la Llata has a degree in Medicine and specialized in Gynecology and Obstetrics from the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi. In addition, the doctor has specialized in reproductive medicine by the Institute for the Study of Human Conception in Monterrey, Mexico. More information about Eric Saucedo de la Llata
Member number: 303007017
 Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduate in Health Biology from the University of Alcalá and specialized in Clinical Genetics from the same university. Master in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Valencia in collaboration with IVI clinics. More information about Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
License: 3435-CV
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