Is There Happiness After Infertility- Surprising Findings

Dawn Davenport


Can you be happy after Infertility?

Infertility is sad. People who are in the midst of struggling to have a child almost always feel some combination of grief, anger, and fear. It can be a toxic combination. They often wonder if they will ever feel normal—if they will ever be truly happy again.

Suffering changes us. After a while, we may return to “normal”, but it is a new normal because we are different people. The good news is that this “new normal” can be filled with happiness and now we have research to prove it.

Will You Ever Be Happy Again

Researchers* in Sweden studied quality of life between four and five and-a-half years after IVF treatment in 979 men and women. The study subject were broken into four groups:

  • Couples whose IVF treatment had failed, and they remain childless.
  • Couple whose IVF treatment were successful and they conceived a child or children.
  • Couple whose IVF treatment was unsuccessful and they adopted children.
  • Control group of couples that did not have fertility issues and who conceived naturally.

Researchers used measurement tools to determine quality of life as measured by psychological well-being and a feeling of connection. (As measured by the Psychological General Well Being (PGWB) and Sense of Coherence (SOC) instruments.) They controlled confounding factors such as demographic, socio-economic status, and health.

Surprising Findings

To the surprise of everyone, the group that showed the highest quality of life were those whose infertility treatment has failed, but they went on to adopt a child or children. They showed a higher sense of connection than all groups, including the control and the successful fertility treatment group, and a higher general sense of well-being than the unsuccessful treatment group without kids and the control group without infertility.

In addition, the group that adopted were found to be less likely to need medical care, used fewer medications, smoked less and reported less long term illness than other groups.

As you would expect, those whose IVF treatment had failed and who were still childless showed the lowest levels of satisfaction with life.

Co-author Dr. Marie Berg said that the “suffering” childless couples endure can contribute to their later happiness.

Do you see this in your life or in the lives of your friends who have experienced infertility?

Study: Quality of life after adopting compared with childbirth with or without assisted reproduction. Hogström L1, Johansson M, Janson PO, Berg M, Francis J, Sogn J, Hellström AL, Adolfsson A. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2012 Sep;91(9):1077-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0412.2012.01491.x. Epub 2012 Jul 24.

20/04/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 20 Comments

20 Responses to Is There Happiness After Infertility- Surprising Findings

  1. Avatar Lea Ann says:

    The study was interesting. I do agree with the comment made that “just adopting” would not make a couple more happy than those that have not adopted. I think it depends on the journey and the choice that is made to be happy whether children are in the picture. My husband and I went through the infertility process took a break for awhile and researched adoption. We started the process of adoption about 7 or 8 years ago. After not having any success in our adoption (We tried twice once in the China program (non special needs) and Taiwan program). We took a short break and discuss trying adoption again. This time we had a deadline of how long we would wait and if the adoption was not successful we would end our journey and be a childless couple. I have to say that it was hard to accept but we needed to both make this agreement and continue with our lives even if it meant without children. Of course we went through the international adoption route and applied to the China program (special needs). The good news with our struggle is about 2 weeks after my 50th birthday we received a referral of a 6 year old girl. We found her on one of the agency’s list. We check her out with international pediatrician and we decided to adopt her. We are very excited and surprise! I really thought that this day would not come and had prepared myself that we probably would not have children since we did not have any success before with IVF and adoption. We are finalizing our paperwork and hope to have a TA in the next few weeks.

  2. Avatar veteran mom by all means says:

    Great article, as always. Having always been one who “deals with what God gives”, knowing He provides what we need to live, infertility was a lifelong challenge. I, too, particularly hated the, “now you’ll get pregnant with twins” adage after adopting. I did go on to have biological twins (through IVF and frozen embryo procedures, after numerous surgeries, biopsies, endometrioma removals, etc), so that part did happen, but only because my tenacity outweighed my sense of “enough is enough.” This is so personal and individual a decision, that any subsequent route to motherhood MUST be carefully considered. Not everyone can or should be a foster or adoptive parent and I strongly recommend that intensive research and personal reflection preceed any decision in this direction. We had good experiences and devastating experiences with this route, over the years, and only a strong marriage and family can survive some of the things we had to overcome. I’m happy with my large, multicultural family, but each adoption experience was unique and totally unpredictable. Had someone told me at 35 my life would be like now, I’d have had them psychologically tested for insanity. I love it, but it’s not for everyone…as so many people have made me aware.

  3. Avatar Kerstin says:

    Interesting but not all that surprising. My guess is that going with adoption in the end gives you more closure (provided you are successful).
    I hope to see that new normal some day soon.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Kerstin, what surprised me was that I would have assumed that that same sense of closure would be found after successful fertility treatment.

  4. Avatar Maria says:

    This is fantastic!!! I’m not surprised by these results at all; I’ve seen it in my own observations. I’m not sure if you remember, but a couple of years ago you allowed me to post info on the facebook page regarding my dissertation in order to recruit participants (Thank You). That study was about posttraumatic GROWTH and infertility; the way people actually grow after having experienced infertility. The cool thing is, I only studied people who were still going through infertility. And, even though in this study that group reported the least happiness, I found that a very sigificant portion have changed their lives for the better because of infertility. In other words, there is hope everywhere!!! Happy #NIAW. 🙂

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Maria, I was surprised that those who got pregnant from IVF didn’t rank the same or higher than those who didn’t get pregnant with IVF, but went on to adopt. Any thoughts from your research on why this might be?

      • Avatar Maria says:

        What I know comes from working with clients and is speculation, as I didn’t look at that particular factor in my study; There seems to be a “letting go” process when people decide, “Okay, that’s enough of the torturous treatments. I just want to be a parent, so let’s look at other options.” Perhaps people who have been successful via IVF haven’t felt that absolute surrender of What Will Be Will Be? I find that it’s almost as if they are still grieving the loss of the “normal” way of having a baby. And nobody knows, because they look like a “normal” family. Whereas, there’s an entire community who celebrates adoption like crazy. Maybe there should be an IUI/IVF Baby Club! Something to celebrate and foster communion. So many factors to consider, but that’s my take. 🙂

  5. Avatar Lori says:

    That is very interesting. I know for myself that it was important for my own resolution and psyche to move forward with adoption after our failed IF treatments. It has been very healing for me.

  6. Avatar Maura says:

    Well according to this study we will be in either the group with highest quality of life or those with the greatest satisfaction. We completed our final IVF cycle two years ago and are currently waiting and hoping for an adoption match. I can certainly see why those who adopted after years of fearing they would never be parents are most content. It often takes loss or threat of loss to really appreciate what you have. Not that the control group does not appreciate their children, but if they never had to fear they would not be parents than it is a different feeling. I am surprised that the successful IVF group did not rank as high as the adopted parents since they had been through a significant struggle also. Personally, however, I find these results a bit stressful to read. I keep trying to convince myself that I can be content even if we are unable to adopt but this research does not support that.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Maura, I was also surprised that the successful with IVF group wasn’t as high or higher than the adoption group. I can speculate, but my speculations seem kind of lame. I would also be curious as to if the still childless group after 4-5 years are still in the throes of trying one way or the other. Or have they made peace with living childfree. I think it is indeed possible that many people who are ultimately not successful at either infertility treatment or adoption to move on to living very happy and fulfilled lives.

    • Avatar Maria says:

      Keep attempting to convince yourself, Maura, because you are right! Being content is a choice you can absolutely make. I’ve worked with countless folks who have remained childfree for a variety of reasons and have found that those who decided to choose contentment are living fulfilled lives with a TON of laughter and joy. I love being around them, because they’ve been through hell and still chose happiness. It’s incredibly inspiring.

  7. Avatar Anon AP says:

    Wow…wow wow wow…So much to think about. I think there’s a real risk here of saying that adopting will make one happier as opposed to considering what processes a couple or individual goes through prior to adopting that contributes to happiness. Do they get more counseling to resolve infertility than other groups? Do they have a different mindset wrt pregnancy and biological connections? Are they happier in being parents because they have more of a sense of dealing with things “come what may” as opposed to any expected sense of predictability based on a biological connection? Are they given more training in being parents as part of the adoption process so they are just overall more prepared for that? Do they have access to or awareness of different parenting resources than the parents via IVF because of adoption? For those who remained childless, did they go through any counseling or support structure to help resolve the feelings about infertility and the changes in their lives do they approach it in an ad hoc fashion?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      AnonAP: [I think there’s a real risk here of saying that adopting will make one happier as opposed to considering what processes a couple or individual goes through prior to adopting that contributes to happiness.] I agree and I agree with the rest of your comment that we would have to dig deeper into each case. I somehow doubt that the take-away from this study should be “just adopt”.

      • Avatar Maria says:

        Lol re: “just adopt.” Let’s not perpetuate that thought…haha! I once wrote a satirical article about “just adopting,” because I wanted to get pregnant. I just kind of chuckle now when folks say, “Hey, you’ll probably get pregnant now that you’ve adopted. With twins! Happens ALL the time.” Lol!

    • Avatar Maria says:

      100% agree! So much to consider!

  8. Avatar Cara Johnson-Blystone says:

    While I would have preferred a bigger study, I can kinda understand it. When you process fully your infertility, you’ve come out the other end of this journey. I do believe you can not adopt until you have processed the big parts of grieving your infertility. When people embark on the adoption path, they are already in a place of healing.

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