How It Feels When IVF Doesn’t Work

Hundreds of thoughts whirled through my mind as I stared at the pregnancy test lying on the side of the bathroom sink. The words on it ‘Not pregnant’ seemed so blunt. Couldn’t the test manufacturers break the news a bit more gently? ‘Sorry… not this time’ would be nice. That said, not everyone doing a pregnancy test wants a positive result, so perhaps Clearblue and co should sell some packs of tests for women who are hoping to conceive and a different set of tests for those who aren’t. ‘Phew! You swerved it this time.’

But for me, having just been through a month of injections, scans, countless hour-long round trips to the hospital, general anaesthetic, a rather undignified-feeling egg transfer procedure and a long wait to see if an embryo had implanted, those weren’t the words I was hoping to see.

We invested our whole summer – and all of our savings – into this one shot at having another child. My ovaries, being the bastards that they are, only offered up six eggs despite me injecting hormones into myself like a mofo. Only two of those eggs fertilised and we put both into my uterus, hoping that at least one of them would implant and turn into a pregnancy. Neither did.

I have no idea how others feel when they go through IVF and it doesn’t work – I can hazard a guess that they feel disappointed, crushed, sad and frustrated. I feel those things too, and I also feel angry that our summer was stolen from us. We couldn’t travel anywhere overnight (scans happen every second day and the medication needs to be kept in the fridge) and the nature of IVF means the nurses regularly monitor how you’re responding to the drugs and they repeatedly move the dates of the procedures accordingly. So we couldn’t plan many days out or arrange to see friends, because we didn’t know when we’d need to be at the hospital. Any plans we did make had to factor in being at home, to inject, at the same time, every evening.

I feel utterly hacked off with my body. It managed to conceive, carry and give birth to a baby seven years ago, yet for the past four years, it has decided not to play ball. And the heavy, painful period which started around the time I took the pregnancy test serves as a fairly constant reminder of what has happened. As if my body is silently mocking me, prodding at me because I dared to hope that I wouldn’t get another period for at least 15 months.

My mind is scanning over the past few weeks, wondering if I’ve done anything to harm our chances – did I not rest enough, did I lift something that was too heavy, should I have lit those scented candles and wrapped that food in cling film, should I have carried on with the acupuncture I abandoned months ago? It would be easy to send yourself slowly mad with the what-ifs.

Perhaps unusually, I’ve never been one of those fertility-challenged people who feels upset when others announce their pregnancy or the arrival of their baby. Until now. It seems like everywhere I look, there are newborns and bump announcements (both royal and muggle). I should be happy for those people, though, shouldn’t I? No matter how much it makes my heart ache.

Plus points. There are plus points (there has to be). Our six-year-old had a fairly quiet summer of visits to the park, the local swimming pool and soft play. She spent a lot of time getting creative with cardboard boxes and Sharpies, and she has perfected her cartwheels. A low-key summer is probably something all kids should do (we grew up with them, after all, and we’re all brilliant.)

The six-year-old is a plus point in herself. We have her and I’m more grateful than ever. A Facebook Memory popped up on my feed this morning – seven years ago today, I was heavily pregnant and celebrating my friend’s birthday in Whitstable. I remember feeling sorry for myself, struggling to walk around that day with my SPD and heavy bump. I want to go back and tell myself how lucky I was.

After only a few weeks of avoiding alcohol, unpasteurised cheese and seafood, I can now eat and drink whatever I want. ALL THE BLUE CHEESE AND WINE PLEASE.

Of course, we know we’re not the first couple that this has ever happened to – one in six couples struggle to conceive, many of whom don’t have a child already. And for women, my age, doing IVF, only 20.8% are successful. So the odds were always stacked against us. Knowing we’re in the majority should offer some comfort, I suppose. (Can you hear me? Clutching at those straws?)

And the fertility forums make for depressing reading. So many women who have tried – and failed at – IVF several times, but who keep going, determined to conceive. They talk about getting another BFN (Big Fat Negative) when all they long for is a BFP. “What will you do now?” people ask me. We have no choice, which perhaps is a blessing, because if we had the money, it would be tempting to keep trying and trying and trying.

So how do I feel, having failed at IVF?

Right now, I feel like my BFN can F-off.


Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash



  1. September 4, 2017 / 8:56 pm

    sorry lovely – much love x

  2. Gemma
    September 4, 2017 / 9:29 pm

    Oh lovely, this made me cry as I know how that feels to see pregnant women and babies everywhere. Sending lots of love, and a huge cuddle xxx

  3. September 4, 2017 / 9:33 pm

    Beautifully written. Like I said before, wishing I lived near enough to come round with a bottle of wine or ten and a huge hug. xxxx

  4. September 4, 2017 / 9:40 pm

    I’m so sorry. I have no words except get that wine down your neck

  5. September 4, 2017 / 9:41 pm

    I just wanted to send you a lot of love, a big cuddle, and just an “I’m really bloody sorry you are going through this right now.” I really want to say the right thing and make it better, but I know it’s just not possible. I’m thinking of you Alison. And I’m so sorry. xx

  6. September 4, 2017 / 9:41 pm

    Oh Alison. I’m so sorry that it didn’t work out. I’ve been struggling myself over the past two years to have a second. I know how heartbreaking it can be to see newly pregnant women. Sending you a ton of love x

  7. September 4, 2017 / 9:53 pm

    I’m so sorry Alison – which I’m aware is fairly meaningless in these circumstances. I hope you have a full supply of wine and blue cheese, and I’m sending you so much love xxx

  8. September 4, 2017 / 10:00 pm

    Alison I am so sorry this has happened. I know there is nothing I can say that makes anything better but I’m thinking of you and sending a virtual hug, or 10 x

  9. September 4, 2017 / 10:11 pm

    I can’t tell you how sorry I am to read this Alison. It’s so unfair. I’m thinking of you and sending you all the love xxx

  10. September 4, 2017 / 10:18 pm

    I’m so sorry. I’ve just insta storied how 9 weeks is too long for a hol with 3 kids blah, blah and am now feeling like a prize plonker. I feel lucky everyday, evety day. It takes brave humans, like yourself, to remind me of how incredibly lucky I am. Don’t give up hope. Whatever else you’ve lost, there is always hope. I’m so truly sorry.
    Caro x

  11. September 4, 2017 / 10:24 pm

    Ali I have just seen this. I am so very sorry. I am sat here crying because you are a good friend and you are hurting, and that makes me sad, angry and all those emotions for you. I have nothing to say except I am sorry. It is unfair. Good things should happen to good people. And you are one of the very very good ones. I am here if you need me. Sending you all my love. xx

  12. September 4, 2017 / 10:30 pm

    Oh Ali – life can be shit and so unfair. Sending love and understanding.

  13. September 4, 2017 / 10:49 pm

    Thinking of you Alison. This is a tough gig. Be kind to yourself. X

  14. September 4, 2017 / 10:59 pm

    Oh hon! I am so sorry my heartbreaks for you as I know how painful loss is and how gruelling the ivf journey is. There is nothing anyone can say at this point apart from we’re all here for you and sending lots of love x

  15. September 4, 2017 / 11:44 pm

    I am so sorry lovely, lovely lady, I know how much this meant to you guys. Life is so unfair and shit sometimes. Always here for a cuppa and a shoulder to cry on, you know that right? Xx

    • Alison Perry
      September 5, 2017 / 10:06 am

      Let’s def have a cuppa soon xxx

  16. September 5, 2017 / 5:47 am

    It really is the most awful feeling. I remember sobbing my way through a bottle of champagne, as if the consolation of alcohol after a month off could ever solve it. It’s a gruesome time, and it’s so so easy to tell yourself it would have turned out well if you’d done something differently. But none of it is your fault. Hug your girl a little tighter. Lots of love x

    • Alison Perry
      September 5, 2017 / 10:06 am

      Thanks lovely Helen. I’ve had some prosecco but think you’re right, some Champagne is called for.

  17. September 5, 2017 / 7:27 am

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I completely understand – I’m not sure if you remember, but you interviewed me for Mother and Baby magazine a few years ago when we were in the midst of our own infertility nightmare. We sadly never got our happy ending either. Every person and every situation is unique, and so we all react and cope in our own ways, but I definitely get the enormity of it all and what you’re going through.

    I’m glad that you’ve felt able to open up though. I actually write this week about how infertility is often still a taboo – especially when the outcome is not positive – and how that can affect other people’s perception of it. I would never wish the experience on anyone, but I have always found it enormously helpful to find out that I’m not alone. So another (small) positive on your list is that you might just be helping to fuel the conversation about infertility and giving more support than you know to others on the same horrendous journey.

    I can’t say time heals, because it doesn’t really. But the pain has become much less acute for me over time. Sending you hugs.

    • Alison Perry
      September 5, 2017 / 10:05 am

      Caro thank you so much for your comment. I absolutely remember interviewing you and often wonder how you are doing. I’m going to read some of your blog posts today xxx

  18. September 5, 2017 / 11:57 am

    So sorry Alison. I had no idea and have never been through anything like this so can’t give you any words of advice. Just sending love and hope you’re ok x

  19. September 5, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    I’m so sorry you got a BFN. I’ve nothing useful to add. Other than I think you are brilliant for sharing this, (which is little consolation I know). I imagine (and I can only imagine) IVF, amongst all the appointments and processes, is a lonely process and a BFN even more so. You’ve given a beautifully written voice to something painful and I hope the various comments are small virtual hugs that ease the crappiness. I hope that this post offers a ‘you are not alone’ to other women and families facing crappy BFN and that is a small positive.

  20. September 5, 2017 / 1:20 pm

    Been there, got the tshirt. It’s proper shit, there are no words. Look after yourself and take it day by day. I cried for a week I think. Sending lots of love. X

  21. September 5, 2017 / 1:51 pm

    Oh Alison I’m so sorry. 🙁 Sending you all my love and lots of hugs. xx

  22. Jo Beddow
    September 5, 2017 / 3:45 pm

    Hi Alison,

    I just saw your blog while searching for a way to repair my washing machine surrounded by a mountain of dirty holiday clothes and wee wet bedding! I don’t read blogs often but the title caught me and I stole a few moments to read and hear your words. You’re story took me back as I know how that Not Pregnant image hits (though I tended to use the cheap ones that just gave you a symbol – or + , but your suggestion of having two versions made me smile)

    Miscarriages, disappointments and many BFN’s to my name after 10 IVFs I finally had my first at 47 and two more attempts to get number two at age 49. Losses and roller coaster emotions for what seemed like an eternity, hope and frustration in equal measure – it’s so so bloody hard I still am scared by the totally wrung out feeling when I think of my personal journey

    Be kind to yourself healing takes time, its the worse of all moments but the ride will continue and take you on a different journey xxx

  23. September 5, 2017 / 4:29 pm

    I know all too well that desperate desire for another baby and the feeling when you see bumps and announcements everywhere. I really hope your time comes soon xx

  24. September 5, 2017 / 4:34 pm

    So sorry Alison to read this Alison, I can’t imagine how frustrated and sad you are feeling. Big hugs and sending virtual wine. Claire x

  25. September 5, 2017 / 5:08 pm

    Oh lovely, I am so sorry you are going through this. Our hopes for number 2 ended after my second miscarriage almost 5-years ago now. I remember feeling the same frustration with my body that had conceived so easily the first time and also wishing I could go back and tell my pregnant self to cherish the time more. I know there is nothing I can say or do to make this better for you, but please be kind to yourself. It’s a fucking shitty thing to happen, but in no way did it happen because of anything that you did or did not do. Sending much love to you xx

  26. September 5, 2017 / 8:47 pm

    I’m so sorry to read this (extremely thoughtful and honest) post – I can remember the feeling so well and it truly is so shit. It’s a loss, put simply. Did you totally feel pregnant as well? Something to do with the ‘unnecessary’ progesterone reacting in the body, or whatever, but I had so many symptoms and it felt ridiculously cruel to be sat there on my period after our IVF failed, while feeling nauseous, off tea and as dizzy as it’s possible to be.

    I’ve debated whether to say this, because I know how annoying it can be when people say ‘have you tried so and so? It worked for my cousin’s neighbour…’ But anyway, I’m just going to tell you what happened to me. I became pregnant with our second son two months after our IVF failed. I know we were v v v fortunate – and I never forget that – but I do think it had something to do with some extra eggs from leftover little follicles knocking about which upped our chances. Both of us had fertility issues, so the chance of a natural pregnancy was pretty slim, but somehow it happened. I hope I haven’t called this wrong as it sounds extremely recent, and I appreciate how raw it is. I also relate to needing closure and actually wanting to let go. If it wasn’t going to happen, I just wanted to know and begin to make peace with it.

    Mainly, I wanted to say: I understand, and I’m sorry. Because it is a horrible time. I only hope you have found a little comfort from writing this – I ultimately found it quite cathartic. And as others have already said, you will be helping others immeasurably by sharing this. So kudos for that as well. Take care of yourself and be kind – don’t rush back to ‘normal.’

  27. September 5, 2017 / 10:48 pm

    Alison – sending you virtual cheese and wine because I don’t know what else to say. I watched a friend go through IVF twice and saw first hand how emotionally and physically taxing it is. Thinking of you x

  28. Juliet
    September 6, 2017 / 9:58 am

    We were in a similar position to you, but we decided to stop not because of the money, but because of the life stealing. Our daughter was missing out on happy parents and being palmed off left right and centre so we could do the IVF. 3 years on we are enjoying life with our one beautiful child, doing things people with more can’t do, and loving it. I can’t say each pregnancy announcement doesn’t sting a little, and periods (always were) a curse, but we are good. We are lucky to have one, many don’t, and although I didn’t want to hear it at the time, it is true.

  29. Juliet
    September 6, 2017 / 10:02 am

    I’m so sorry you have been through this – it sounds very familiar and is a real shit situation. We were in a similar position to you, but we decided to stop not because of the money, but because of the life stealing. Our daughter was missing out on happy parents and being palmed off left right and centre so we could do the IVF. 3 years on we are enjoying life with our one beautiful child, doing things people with more can’t do, and loving it. I can’t say each pregnancy announcement doesn’t sting a little, and periods (always were) a curse, but we are good. We are lucky to have one, many don’t, and although I didn’t want to hear it at the time, it is true – make sure you enjoy it (when you have taken a bit of time to process your BFN 🙁

  30. Fran
    September 6, 2017 / 1:12 pm

    Oh Ali, I’m so sorry to read this. I feel guilty for posting pictures of my newborn muggle because I can totally understand how they would hurt you. I’m sorry. I have no understanding of how our bodies work and why I got lucky and you didn’t. Why some women never even get to experience one child let alone two or three. Why? Why? Why!! I am sending you big warm hugs from North London to South London and I’m praying that someone might read your post and offer you a new trial or some relevant advice. Big huge massive hugs xxx

    • Alison Perry
      September 6, 2017 / 4:49 pm

      Please don’t feel guilty. Your muggle baby is beautiful and you should be shouting from the rooftops xxxxx

  31. Sarah
    September 6, 2017 / 2:43 pm

    I wasn’t going to comment because in the middle of pain do words from a stranger help? A dear friend went through cycles of IVF as I had two healthy pregnancies despite being told I would need fertility treatment. None of it makes sense. But one of the many things I learned from her journey is that just because your loss seems less tangible you should be really kind to yourself because your grief is no less significant than other bereavements. Not that you need commendation, but your writing about this is bound to help others – not only going through the same but wanting to be a good friend to someone going through the same. And if words from a stranger do help then I am really sorry you are going through this you are clearly fabulous fun parents who are a blessing to the child you have and I’m sorry you are having to come to terms with a reality different to the one you had hoped for. It sucks.

  32. Caterina
    September 6, 2017 / 10:49 pm

    Alison, I wasn’t going to comment as it felt like it was such a personal thing to comment on and I also have never commented before. I’m sorry it didn’t work. But I was impressed with your strength and bravery to write such an honest account. Eat the blue cheese, drink the red wine and write. Write it all down and I hope this helps you (no doubt it will help others going through similar things). Take some time to be kind to yourself and look after each other as a family. Your thoughts and experiences resonated with me. Take each day as it comes.

  33. September 7, 2017 / 8:54 am

    Oh Alison. I’m so sorry. It’s so, so shit when you go through all of that and come out with nothing. The same happened to us, only two were transferable, neither took.
    All I can say is, it will get easier. In time. All the emotions are still right at the surface but they do eventually calm down and you’ll start to feel like you again, whichever way that might be.

    Don’t any of the what if’s – they don’t help – there was nothing, absolutely nothing, you could have done differently. Life is just a bitch sometimes.

    Sending you both massive hugs and love. x

  34. September 7, 2017 / 9:24 am

    I’m so , so sorry to read this. Your post literally bought tears to my eyes. Life can feel so unfair at times can’t it. You go around being a good human and spreading love and niceness and then something like this happens. Sending you all of the love, hugs and good vibes right now. Much love, Kelly xx

  35. September 7, 2017 / 11:20 am

    Alison I’ve just read this and wanted to send you a huge huge hug and lots of love. I’m so sorry you are going through such a difficult time lovely. Hope you are as ok as you can be xxx

  36. September 8, 2017 / 6:41 am

    Happily cook something blue/soft cheese heavy and make you all the cocktails from stolen cocktail menus I’ve acquired over the years. All the hugs x

  37. September 8, 2017 / 1:06 pm

    So, so sorry to hear that your ivf didn’t work this time, it just sucks big time. I am finally pregnant after my 6th ivf cycle (all fresh so I hear you with the no summers, alcohol, nice food, putting life on hold, no money, etc) but know only too well the disappointment, tears and frustration when there is a lack of a second line on a test. The only thing that got me through it was focusing on my next cycle, I know that’s not an option for everyone as sometimes going through it once is enough for some people.

    Enjoy your wine, cheese and everything else you have had to avoid the last few weeks and I wish you lots of luck in whatever you decide to do next xx

  38. September 9, 2017 / 2:46 pm

    I am so sorry to read this. Enjoy the Wine and Cheese. Lots of love xx

  39. September 13, 2017 / 10:23 pm

    I’m really sorry you are going through this Alison, I know how sad and lonely it feels. When my eldest son was 2 I was told I would never be able to have any more children and I should be grateful I already had one. Needless to say I fell pregnant about a month later, against all odds. Never lose hope, it’s not all lost xxx

  40. November 7, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    Just reading this after finding a link on a previous post. IVF is such a heartbreaking journey. I’ve not been through it personally but watching my sister go though this a few years ago was just awful. I’m so sorry you’ve had to experience it as well x

  41. December 13, 2017 / 4:38 am

    I listened to your podcast with Izzy Judd today and had to come and read more about your story. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share. Secondary infertility has its own weird emotions attached to it – I feel guilt as I should be satisfied with what I have. Do I deserve to be part of the ‘infertility club’ when I already have a child? I should be cherishing my child and not longing for another. I should be happy about my child rather than dwelling on the sadness as others have it worse than me.

    But, truth is, it’s still an incredibly lonely journey frought with emotion. As I heard you stifle tears today and later apologise for being upset my heart broke for you. It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to mourn the loss of those fertilised eggs and what could have been despite having a child. You would never say to a mother she can’t mourn one child because she still has another. You are allowed to feel the loss of the sibling you so desire without guilt or apology xx

  42. January 2, 2018 / 10:22 pm

    Oh Alison, felt I had to respond. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. We’ve been through multiple miscarriages over the last 4 years so took the huge decision to stop trying last year. I really relate to your posts about the guilt of not being able to provide a sibling for my beautiful girl, but we just couldn’t carry on. It’s taken the whole year, allowing us to grieve, but also to realise how lucky we are with our amazing team of three. Much love to your team of three. Xx

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