Why You May Decide Not to Pursue Fertility Treatment

Why People Stop Fertility Treatments and Arguments Against IVF

Couple comforting each other through infertility, having decided against going through IVF
Making the decision to stop treatment or not pursue fertility treatment altogether can be difficult. But it will also allow you to grieve and move on. Image Source / Getty Images

If you've been coping with infertility, you've probably heard a lot about being your own advocate. Yet being an empowered infertility patient means knowing all of your options, and choosing not to pursue fertility treatment is one of those options.

What are some of the reasons not to pursue fertility treatment or in vitro fertilization (IVF)? Let's take a look at some of the arguments against fertility treatment if you are unsure of your next steps, or if you simply are looking for reasons to help your loved ones understand the decision you have made.

Choosing Not to Pursue Fertility Treatment is an Option

One of the options for fertility treatment is not undergoing treatment. While this is spoken of only infrequently, it is the "right" option for many people. Some people may choose to never try conventional fertility treatment, whereas others go through a number of treatments and then decide the "next level" of treatment is something they don't want to do.

We can't emphasize enough that this decision belongs to you and your partner alone. When you are coping with infertility you've probably been the recipient of a mound of unsolicited advice. People who have never faced infertility themselves may suddenly express their "expert opinions" about what you should be doing. You may need to repeat yourself more than once when you state that not doing treatment is a legitimate treatment option.

Why Choosing Not to Pursue Fertility Treatment is so Difficult

Deciding whether to begin or pursue fertility treatment is difficult enough even when there are only two people involved.

It can be heartwrenching to weigh the risks and benefits of these treatments and what your decision might mean over a lifetime. You need to make the decision based on what's best for you and your partner alone—not your family and friends. That said, this is much easier said than done.

A couple may be afraid of how their family and even friends will react to the decision.

They may worry that family will accuse them of "not caring" about their feelings on the matter. Their mothers may accuse them of "not caring" about their desire to have a grandchild, for example.

They may worry that friends will dismiss the emotional pain of their infertility since they "never tried that hard anyway." (Those people would be wrong, of course!)

Reasons Not to Pursue Fertility Treatments

You and your partner may be strongly considering the option of not pursuing fertility treatments and wish to see some of the arguments against these therapies. Or, you and your partner may have decided against infertility treatments and wish to find arguments to support your decision amidst family and friends who may feel differently. What are some of the arguments in support of foregoing infertility treatment?

Fertility Treatments Are Expensive.

While some may argue that not having enough cash is not really a decision, but rather an inability to pursue treatment, money does prevent many couples from pursuing infertility treatment. This is sometimes called "financial infertility."

For the purposes of our discussion here, however, we are focusing on making a financial decision against treatment.

Beyond insurance (which few have for infertility treatment) and scholarships and grants (which not everyone qualifies for), there are a number of ways to fund fertility treatment. Some require more sacrifice (and even risk) than others. Options may include getting a second job, forgoing any vacations for the next few years, or living an extremely frugal life. Or even taking out loans, getting a second mortgage on your home, and going into credit card debt.

All of these options can put tremendous stress on you and your relationship. The worst part is it may not even pay off in the end. No fertility treatment is guaranteed to work.

You may decide that taking extreme steps to pay for treatment just doesn't make sense for you, or doesn't fit with your life plans.

You may even have the cash saved and put aside and decide you don't want to use it for that purpose. Just because you have the money doesn't mean you now have to use it for treatment. You may prefer to use that money to pursue adoption instead, or for some other purpose of your choice.

In other words, the cost may be a reason why you don't want to pursue infertility, and that cost doesn't necessarily mean you don't have the money.

Deciding to Continue Trying to Conceive Without Help

You may decide to continue trying to conceive on your own, even if your odds of success are very small. This is certainly an option and is not the same as ignoring your infertility and pretending it will resolve on its own.

It's a good idea to talk to your doctor before you make this decision. Some causes of infertility can be a threat to your overall health. However, once your doctor has evaluated you and confirmed you're otherwise healthy, it's okay to decide to leave parenthood up to chance. 

Wanting to Avoid Treatment Risks

Fertility treatments are generally safe, but they do come with risks.

Even Clomid has risks and side effects, though they are relatively low risk compared to assisted reproductive technologies like IVF.

Risks and side effects of fertility drugs can range from nuisance effects to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

IVF procedures carry risks as well, for a number of reasons spanning from the surgical procedure for egg retrieval, to complications of multiple pregnancies. Not everyone wants to take those risks.

Not Wanting to Go Through the Emotional Stress

Fertility treatment can be extremely stressful, and stressors range from the emotional drain of waiting to see if you are pregnant, to the routine that must be meticulously followed, to the "hormones from hell" as some of the medications are popularly described. You may decide that you don't want that stress in your life.

There is support out there, including options such as fertility therapists, support groups, and mind-body programs. But support doesn't eliminate all the stress; it just makes it more tolerable.

Studies done in Scotland as well as in the United States have cited psychological reasons as being very significant in decisions to not undergo fertility treatments. In fact, in Sweden and the Netherlands where fertility treatments are subsidized by the government, between half and three-fourths of people choose not to pursue the full extent of options available.

Of note, however, is that depression has also been found as an occasional reason for not pursuing infertility treatment. If you feel you may be suffering from depression, talk to your doctor about what you are feeling before making any decisions.

Not Wanting to Pursue the Treatments Suggested

There are many different infertility treatment options available, and you may decide you will try some, but not all. For example:

  • You may decide you're open to low-tech treatments like Clomid, but nothing more advanced.
  • You may decide you'll try IUI (intrauterine insemination) but not IVF (in vitro fertilization.)
  • You may decide that using an egg donor, sperm donor, or embryo donor isn't something you'd want to do.
  • You may decide surrogacy isn't something you'll consider.

You don't have to have a "good reason" not to pursue these treatments. Sometimes, something just doesn't feel right to you and your partner.

That is OK.

Having Religious or Ethical Objections

Some people have religious or ethical objections to fertility treatments.

You may be uncomfortable with the idea of conception happening in a lab or concerned about the creation of "extra" embryos.

You may not want to have to make decisions about "leftover" embryos or be against freezing them. You may be hesitant about using donor eggs or sperm or using a surrogate.

Always speak to your doctor about your concerns first, as there may be options that don't go outside your comfort zone.

If not, it's OK to say no, but thanks.

As an important side note, some people in the infertility community can be fiercely defensive regarding the ethics of fertility treatments. They are passionate not only because they believe treatments are ethically acceptable, but also because some political groups have made it their mission to make certain treatments illegal or unavailable.

Try not to confuse their passion—which is rooted in a desire to protect their own and others' right to choose—as a personal attack on your decision not to pursue treatments for religious or ethical reasons.

Deciding to Pursue Adoption

You may decide that if you can't conceive on your own, you'd like to go straight to adoption and forgo treatments.

You may have always wanted to adopt. Or it may be something you decided to do only after your infertility diagnosis.

Just be sure to work with a counselor to help deal with the grief of infertility before you begin the adoption process. Adoption doesn't replace having a biological child or erase the pain of infertility. It is just another way to build a family.

Deciding To Be Child-Free (Not) By Choice

You may choose not to pursue treatments and, instead, live a child-free life.

Whether you consider yourself child-free by choice (CFBC) or child-free not by choice (CFNBC), deciding to not have kids is a legitimate life choice.

The term "child-free" is a bit of a misnomer. You can still be a big part of a child's life.

You may work with children in your job or as a volunteer, or you may be a very involved auntie or uncle. You just may choose not to have kids of your own—not through treatments or adoption.

Coping with the Decision Not to Pursue Treatment

Of course, deciding not to pursue treatments doesn't magically take away the pain and grief of infertility. It will be important, even if you strongly wish to be childfree, to grieve what could possibly have been. There isn't a set amount of time for this grieving, and everyone grieves in different ways. Be kind to yourself and pamper yourself while you are healing. A good counselor can help you work through your options, and help you cope with the emotional aftermath of those choices.

Bottom Line on the Decision Not to Pursue Infertility Treatments

Whether you decide to pursue pregnancy or feel convicted that pursuing these treatments is not for you and your partner, infertility carries a tremendous emotional impact. This can be difficult enough for you as a couple, but the opinions and unsolicited advice of family and friends can add to the burden.

Working with a counselor can be very helpful, as can support groups as long as you find a group of people who also chosen not to pursue infertility treatments. Though we stated this earlier, the decision should be between you and your partner. Family members and friends may express opinions, but in the end, you need to make the choice that is best for you.

Sources:

Eisenberg, M., Smith, J., Millstein, S. et al. Predictors of Not Pursuing Infertility Treatment After an Infertility Diagnosis: Examination of a Prospective U.S. Cohort. Fertility and Sterility. 2010. 94(6):2369-2371.

Nagy, E., and B. Nagy. Coping With Infertility: Comparison of Coping Mechanisms and Psychological Immune Competence in Fertile and Infertile Couples. Journal of Health Psychology. 2016. 21(8):1799-808.

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