On July 25, 1978 a miracle occurred in Oldham, England, when Louise Brown became the world’s first child born using IVF.
Now, for the first time in human history, woman who had been unable to conceive naturally, could now through the miracle of science, have a greater opportunity to have children.
Right from the beginning IVF was controversial, with the Pope at the time warning of the potential for women to become ‘baby factories’, whilst other raised concerns over issues of ‘informed consent’, as Louise Brown’s mother was unaware that there had been no previous successful IVF attempt.
‘Informed consent’ remains an issue today, with enquiries being held into the potentially misleading marketing of IVF providers over success rates, let alone the almost unfathomable costs of the procedure, with couples spending tens of thousands of dollars on treatment.
Despite the cost, we have seen the use of IVF explode since the early days of the ‘test tube’ baby, with 1 in 6 Aussie couples now requiring IVF support to conceive, resulting in over 70,000 expensive and invasive procedures a year.
Often couples enter these programs with little knowledge of what to expect, emotionally, physically and financially, which has the potential to place enormous strain on relationships once the procedure commences.
Unlike the marketing blurbs and videos, what couples discover is that there are no guarantees of a successful outcome, with it often taking multiple IVF cycles, resulting in dealing with multiple IVF failures and potential miscarriages, before any possible miracle occurs.
Many women who enter IVF, have also been emotionally scarred through the failure to conceive, so when repeated IVF procedure are unsuccessful, this adds to already existing emotional damage.
All this whilst the body is racked with hormones, causing an enormous and often unexpected strain upon the relationship, such is the pressure and stress that research has shown that couples are three times more likely to divorce following unsuccessful IVF treatment.
It is something I see regularly in my practice as the emotional and financial strain takes hold, leading to one partner, usually the husband or boyfriend, changing their mind over treatment, wanting to look at other options, such as having no children, or adoption.
It is not a conversation though that he is willing to have directly with his wife after witnessing the emotional and physical hell she has gone through, when it does emerge you can understand the spike in the divorce rate.
As couples, our best weapon in staying together is honesty and when we hold back on what we feel or think, no matter how difficult the conversation, will become a threat to the relationship.
What the glossy brochure from the IVF clinic will not tell you is how the treatment cycle will invade your everyday life through:
Hijacking everyday conversations at the expense of the relationship
The heavy drugs, hormones and fertility failure will create an emotional roller coaster
Impact intimacy and closeness between you and your partner
Build financial pressure with each costly procedure
Lead to a potential breakdown of communication between you and your partner
That is not to say that one should not seek out IVF to help you have children, as with the average age of a first Mum now climbing to 32, biology tells us that more and more women will need help to conceive.
What is needed is to be prepared for what you will face as a couple when undergoing IVF, as once you know exactly what is ahead of you, this will help you to work together as a couple to support each other, as you wait for your little miracle.
Prepare for the stress – IVF is likely to cause emotional distress to the relationship and both partners need to plan how they will deal with this before commencing treatment
Be there for each other – IVF is invasive and very difficult for the female, it also places enormous stress on the partner not undergoing treatment, so make sure you are there to support each other
Select the right professional – IVF is an emotional rollercoaster and working with an empathetic medical professional who you feel safe and secure with will help you through the process
Check in with each other – Communication is important through the process, make sure that you are checking in with each other on how you are coping and talking through any concerns
Maintain your intimacy – During IVF your sex life can feel like you are in a science experiment, rather than a relationship, so stay intimate with each other and work to ensure sex does not feel like a chore
Get support before you start – It is such a tough road emotionally and can cost a huge sum, so seek support from a relationship counsellor who can help you prepare for the process before you commence treatment.
For more tips, daily quotes and information about love, dating, relationships and happiness visit my Facebook page Melissa Ferrari - Psychotherapist & Relationship Expert. Also available is information about couple therapy and how it can help your relationships.