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Addicted to Hope for a Child

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Stopping fertility treatments -- whether fertility drugs or an assisted reproductive technology -- can be a major issue for couples. 

For couples that don't define the ''enough is enough'' point before embarking on the journey to pregnancy, these treatments may become addictive, with each new cycle bringing a flush of optimism.  "Just one more cycle and then we'll stop" can go on for longer than the recommended cycle-length of the fertility drugs, and in some cases, for longer than two years -- an eternity for fertility treatments.

Before you begin your treatment, you should set down your own financial and time limits. For example, some couples plan for three in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles and one gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) cycle. Some couples plan for three clomiphene citrate cycles and one IVF cycle. You should then discuss a back-up plan in case treatments don't work. This may include adoption, child-free living, or plans to continue to try to conceive naturally (as may be the case for unexplained infertility, irregular cycles, or borderline low sperm count).

One couple with unexplained infertility actually went on oral contraception after their treatment cycle, because the hopefulness/despair merry-go-round at the beginning of each natural cycle, and the beginning of each period, was just too much for them to handle emotionally. For this couple, oral contraception was the only way they could get on with their lives.

Signs that It May Be Time to Stop Fertility Treatment

Knowing when to stop fertility treatments isn't always clearcut. The following signs, compiled from other couples' experiences, may help you recognize the point at which ''enough is enough:''

1. The fertility drugs are causing painful or adverse symptoms, ranging from physical pain to severe mood swings.

2. You're already in debt and cannot afford another cycle.

3. You cannot stand to be around anyone but your partner and your doctor. You can't remember the last time you chatted with a friend.

4. You can't remember the last time you did anything for pleasure -- reading, sports, going to a movie -- that did not revolve around infertility.

5. You and/or your partner are incapable of becoming sexually aroused just for "fun."

6. You eat, drink, and sleep infertility. You're so obsessed about your infertility that it's interfering with your job, your sex life, your social network, and your relationship with your partner.

7. You're showing signs of depression: apathy, loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities, change in appetite (usually decreased), fatigue, guilt, self-loathing, suicidal thoughts, poor concentration and memory, sleeplessness (waking early and not going back to sleep), and anxiety.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD, FACOG on June 21, 2012
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