February 29, 2024

IVF’s emotional roller-coaster

A London psychotherapist has criticised the UK government’s recent decision to cover one free cycle of fertility treatment through the National Health Service. Nicola Glucksmann, who had an IVF child herself 10 years ago, feels that it might make women rush into IVF without understanding its impact on their physical and psychological health, marriage and finances.

Only now can I see how, in those four years, I was little short of a woman possessed,” she writes in the Independent. “I made bizarre, potentially dangerous decisions, and I denied obstacles and signs that now seem all too obvious — not least that my marriage was tissue-paper thin. It was simply too difficult for me to hold on to rational deductive processes while in the grip of the most powerful emotions…

This is not a good state of mind in which to make decisions either about the emotional cost of treatment or the possible medical risks. Even when presented with something concrete — the treatment’s links to ovarian and breast cancer, and concern for ART children’s health in later life — I realise that I couldn’t hear. As I saw it, life would be over anyway without children, so the risk of dying as a result of treatment didn’t scare me.”

Although no figures are available, Ms Glucksman believes that IVF treatment often damages relationships. She cites a professor of psychoanalysis at the University of Essex, Joan Raphael-Leff, who says that sexuality and procreation, instead of being linked, can become separated in the quest for a child: “Intervention can even become a way of avoiding intimacy with a partner.” Ms Glucksman is organising a conference on the psychology of infertility in May.