When does IVF become an addiction?

Much has been discussed about IVF on this website. I have not had it myself but I have come thisclose. I certainly have experienced the desperation of wanting to fall pregnant when I couldn’t. And I know how that messes with your head, times a hundred when hormones are involved.

The subject of this post is a difficult one because in no way is it meant to hurt or offend the women who have had or are having IVF. Nor is it meant to be overtly critical of the medical professionals whose business it is (literally) to try and help these women become pregnant.

But there is an issue to be raised, one that might make some people feel uncomfortable and it is this:

When is enough? When do you say ‘it’s not going to happen’ and walk away from the dream of having a baby? And should anyone else have the power to make that decision on  your behalf?

I certainly don’t have the answer to that question. I would not presume to try because I have three children and I kiss the ground in thanks for them every single day. But I received the following email from a Mamamia reader who is grappling with it:

I am writing to express my extreme distress at what appears to be the most expensive lottery ticket in town for over 40s these days – IVF. I know of four women who have undergoing the process – one for the ninth time – and it appears they are constantly being told the next time they will be lucky. At around $10k a cycle, that is a lot of money on a chance that is less than one in 10. I am seeing marriages crumble, hearts break, hormones go wild and mental and physical devastation as a result of every cycle that doesn’t produced much longed for babies. I am seeing women almost lose their minds and empty their bank accounts to feed their obsession to be pregnant.

Don’t get me wrong, I think IVF is a wonderful gift and I don’t deny anyone wanting a baby – no matter what their age – to give it a go. But surely, when chances are so low there should be comprehensive counselling where financial, marital, mental and physical heath issues are discussed before a 40 plus woman buys yet another expensive lottery ticket in hope of a baby?

The cynical side of me tends to think that doctors could be recommending over 40s keep trying to get their own success rates statistics up in this fertility challenged age group, therefore attracting more women hoping to defeat the odds and conceive (let’s not go into the chances of actually carrying the baby to term and it being born healthy).

Ugh, this is such a delicate and complicated subject. Ultimately, if you believe in reproductive choice – which I do – then it’s the woman who has to make the decisions about her own fertility, including when it’s time to call time on efforts to get pregnant. Not a doctor and not a government.

But what if she can’t see straight? What then? Surely, there should be some kind of mandatory counselling for women having IVF to help them navigate the mental and emotional rollercoaster that runs parallel to the physical one.
Until you have been in that crazed state of desperately wanting to conceive and not being able to, it can be very very hard – actually impossible – to understand how it feels. It can be like a drug. An addiction. Nature is very powerful when it comes to the desire to reproduce. It can feel almost primal.

Please be mindful before you comment that this is an extremely emotional subject for those who have gone through IVF or who are going through it now.

While everyone is entitled to an opinion, I have a particular understanding for what it feels like to confront the prospect of infertility and it’s very hard to put into words how difficult and challenging it is.

Have you experienced IVF or infertility? What did you do to try and conceive? How far would you have gone? Did anyone ever try and talk you out of it? Did you have a mental line in the sand that said “enough”?

Maybe you watched someone you love go through it? What did you see?