It wasn’t supposed to end this way. We all knew going in that nothing was guarantied, but we felt good and optimistic about starting. Together, we believed that if we just obeyed the rules and had faith, that good things can happen to good people. We anticipated sacrificing time, emotion and money, for a process that was logically the most reliable way to go. We figured it was the best option, and we were “all in” to work towards success.

Shari was 41 when we first met and she was already at it for more than a year. She was very smart and informed. Shari understood the small details of each treatment, but didn’t dwell on the negativity. She was super practical. The plan, which she started at 39, was to start with iui, and move to IVF if nothing happened. She eagerly and compliantly stuck to the plan, and had 2 IVFs under her belt by the time she first saw me.

At our consultation I definitely saw hopeful signs from her previous cycles. She made 15 eggs the second time. Plus her embryo quality was very nice. I explained that 3 things really help when you are trying to get pregnant with IVF at 41; a high egg number, good looking embryos and chromosomally normal embryos. We knew off the bat that she at least had 2/3. More eggs means more selection. We all know that a large percentage of embryos have bad chromosomes, so if you have more embryos, you are increasing your odds of at least one of them being normal. And if they look nice, all the better.

Wow, she called to tell me she got pregnant on her own. Sweet. But there was no heartbeat at 7 weeks, and she needed a D and C. This caused her to pause, and logically concluded that maybe FSH iui could work. So she tried to no avail.

Doing more IVF cycles was not an easy decision. She had some infertility insurance coverage, but that was all gone, so she had to pay for anything else, including the medications. But she weighed the options and decided to proceed with more IVF based on her good response, recent pregnancy and advancing age.

So off she went into her 3rd and 4th IVF cycle with me. Each time producing eggs and very good embryos. We changed the protocol a bit, but in the end she had cycles that most other women could not achieve.

Except for the two negative pregnancy tests.

And that’s the end of the story.

When we last spoke she was again very practical. She just didn’t see the value in going into a 5th IVF cycle. She could not afford donor egg. She was very kind, expressing her gratitude for the treatment she received. But this was it; she was done. She had ended her quest for a baby. Stated differently, she was probably not going to have a baby.

So why am I bringing this story to you, as this is not the first tale of woe in the infertility world.

I think this one was tough for me because she had to stop, but I still had some hope in the chest. For many, stopping becomes the best option because multiple attempts have given me information saying that it really may not be worth continuing. Few eggs, very poor embryo quality, advanced age etc. When younger women have to throw it in, I can at least feel that with time their situation will change, and although it looks like the end now, they may get another shot later on. It’s also easier when the best option is donor egg, and donor egg is agreeable and affordable to the patient.

Now every doctor does get very disappointed every time a patient has a negative pregnancy test. But the story about Shari just left me hanging a little more than usual. Many eggs, nice embryos, and my sense that if she could just do more cycles her time would come. Maybe. The thing was, I couldn’t tell her it would happen, and that always makes it tough. And I couldn’t lay on the optimism thing, even though had some. After 4 cycles, the energy and drive to continue has to come from the patient.

But I will continue to have hope for her. Maybe she will fall into an insurance program that will get her at least one more cycle. She doesn’t have much time for that. May be her financial situation will change and she will get to donor egg. This she has a little time for. And maybe, she will get pregnant on her own, which is not out of the realm of possibilities.

Thanks for reading, and Shari is a substitute name.

Dr. Licciardi