Deciding when to stop treatment is a very personal decision. There is completely stopping infertility treatment, and there is also taking a break long enough to regain mental equilibrium and focus on other aspects of life. Some patients go into treatment knowing where their endpoint will be. Some patients get on the infertility roller coaster and keep going, afraid to stop.
There are patients who want to have a baby but know when they begin that they may have difficulty conceiving. Factors such as advanced childbearing age or underlying medical conditions may limit treatment options. When patients stop treatment, they know they have tried their best to have a family and also know they will be able to make a meaningful life without children.
There are patients in denial about the medical obstacles to conception for them and they believe “just one more cycle” and there will be a pregnancy.
There are patients who persist at treatment out of fear. They fear life without the children they dreamed of, they fear having to adjust their own self identify if they are not parents, they fear the judgment of family when they are not able to provide grandchildren.
When it might be time to take a break:
- When you spend more time thinking about creating a pregnancy than your relationship. Some patients, especially women, are emotionally consumed by the idea of having a baby. They may not feel “complete” without becoming a parent. Or they may feel like they have disappointed their partner because of their diagnosis. Psychological counseling, either individual or for couples, can be helpful with these feelings.
- When thinking about babies is consuming your entire mental energy and treatment consumes all your resources. Infertility treatment can become a focus that strips meaning out of other aspects of life. Couples may avoid spending money on activities they once shared that brought them closer together. Investing time and resources in a relationship is what creates a solid family base.
- When intimate pleasures are gone and your sex life has become all about baby making.
For some couples the medicalization of reproduction can be a blessing because it allows sex to be about fun and procreation to be in the doctor’s office. It’s helpful to remember that nothing will negatively impact a couple’s sex life like a newborn! Enjoy it now!
When it’s time to stop treatment and move on in life:
- When treatment options conflict with personal values creating feelings of guilt or emotional discomfort. Religious teachings or just a general outlook on life may signal a time to stop. In general, these end points center around the perspective that infertility treatment is “unnatural.”
- When the relationship seems to be all about baby making and not about the joys partners originally found in each other. Often by this time, the delights of sexual intimacy have gone and sex is just another chore. Partners may find they avoid each other. Conversations may be monopolized by talk about infertility causing one partner to “tune out” on the relationship as a whole.
- When you need a loan that can’t be repaid within a few months in order to afford treatment. Many factors go into the success of a pregnancy so it can be as if you are playing Mother Nature’s lottery. If you don’t get the result you hoped for, ongoing the financial burden may continue to affect the quality your life for a long time.
- When one partner realizes that the premise of the relationship was really about having children more than it was about his or her partner, and it isn’t working out.
Kris Bevilacqua is a clinical psychologist who offers counseling and support while patients are navigating their fertility journey.
Original post February 27, 2018
Updated July 28, 2021