IVF Is Your Only Option—NOT!

by Sheila St. John
Spring 2024

Over and over again, I respond to inquiries from woman seeking to achieve a pregnancy who were told by their doctor that their only option, their only hope of having a baby, is IVF. It is my privilege to tell them not only is it NOT their only option, it is not even their best option!

In most cases, when I ask what diagnosis they received for their infertility, the response is “unexplained” infertility.

Have you been diagnosed with “unexplained” infertility?

The woman/couple are left to conclude that the doctors cannot figure out what is wrong, so IVF probably IS our only option. In reality, IVF has become the assumed solution to infertility, so very little workup is directed towards diagnosing and treating the underlying cause of the infertility, but rather to identify if you are a good candidate for IVF. Couples are fast tracked to Assisted Reproductive Technologies, not because all medical remedies to restore or support fertility failed, but because their healthcare professionals failed to try.

Has this been your experience?

Despite the many and varied causes of infertility, most who contact us report receiving the same cookie cutter approach, with minor variations:
1) no intervention or work up unless they have been trying for at least a year
2) minimal testing, usually consisting of randomly timed lab work, or ordered on the same cycle day for all (such as cycle day 21, though we know the timing of ovulation varies cycle by cycle, and certainly woman by woman)
3) perhaps a cycle of ovulation induction (though they have not been diagnosed as anovulatory)
4) Or skip right to IUI, with its dismal success rate, so when it fails—as it usually does—it does indeed seem IVF is your only option.

It is almost as if the workup is designed not only to determine if you are good candidate for IVF, but to prepare you to emotionally embrace it as your only option.

Does this resonate with you?

The stories are so eerily similar, call after call, woman after woman, and I vacillate between heartbreak, that they were not given the care they deserve, and anger, at a system that failed them.

I vividly recall one conversation with a woman, even though it occurred twenty years ago. After listening to her story, I assured her there was hope, and resources, and she was not alone—so many women had, sadly, been through similar experiences. I innocently said to her “the unique thing about your story, is that you were not pressured to do IVF” (as that was the only part of the script I had come to anticipate, that her story did not include). There was dead silence on the other end of the phone, then tears, as she shared that she had indeed tried IVF. Twice. She expressed deep regret over that detour on her infertility journey, as she was never comfortable with that approach which conflicted with strongly held convictions, but….she felt desperate and out of options. When we spoke she was being evaluated through NaPro. Her comparison of the experience of those two paths to resolve infertility was striking and profound, and that was prior to her positive pregnancy test, and the subsequent birth of her beautiful, healthy daughter.

While we are able to help most overcome their infertility, including those with a history of failed IVF, of course not all stories end with a baby. But it has been my experience, that the journey to restore health and fertility brings healing and wholeness, and can be a path to acceptance—even in those cases where our hearts desire for the gift of a child is not fulfilled.

Have you been told IVF is your only option?

We are here for you—with another way. A better way.

About The Author

Sheila St. John
Sheila St. John is the Executive Director of the California Association of Natural Family Planning, coordinating the non-profit’s education and advocacy efforts throughout the state. Initially attracted to NFP as a healthy, effective method for planning families, drug, device and surgery free, her passion for NFP has grown over the last 42 years as she has journeyed with the over 900 couples she has personally instructed in its use, and been privileged to witness its role in overcoming infertility, women’s health, and the transformation that occurs in lives of men, women, and families, when we embrace God’s design for love and life.


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