27 Jul · Karen Melton · 7 Comments

How In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Affects Babies and Children

Conception necessitates two people coming together to make a baby and there is the potential for their union to be deep, passionate, conscious and totally present. As we come into life at conception we receive our first imprint of relationship from how our parents are with each other, how they make love, how they feel towards each other and their level of intimacy and presence. We also get our first imprint of sexuality since we’re all conceived out of a sexual union, unless we ‘ve come in through IVF. As you can see there is a great deal happening at conception, it’s a very important moment. So, what does this all mean for a child who comes in through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?

IVF children are some of the most wanted children on the planet. Anyone who has gone through IVF to have a child is a courageous and determined person. IVF gives many couples a chance to have their dream of parenthood come true, and it is a miracle that medical science has found a way to make this happen. Medical procedures often focus on the biological level alone leaving out the emotional, psychological and soul/spiritual aspects of the experience. Conception is a powerful and sacred moment and pregnancy is the cauldron for our life’s deepest core templates, also influencing our brain and neurological wiring. In my work with IVF families I attempt to bring the sacred and the practical back together providing a balanced, integrated approach to either having, or healing from, IVF.

My work is somatic and focuses on early imprints, attachment and parenting. It covers the period from pre-conception through early infancy including conception, womb life and birth. The imprints laid down during this time affect our lives profoundly because it’s the foundational period of our development. If you’re interested in this field of work, Somatic Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (SPPP), you may want to explore further on both the Association for Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (APPPAH) web site at www.birthpsychology.com and on my web site as below. You are also welcome to call me with questions, feedback, to schedule a session, etc.

From the SPPP viewpoint we are conscious when we begin to come in to our body at conception and we continue to be fully conscious and sentient throughout our womb life, birth and early infancy. Our life does not begin after birth as the longstanding cultural myth would have us believe. In my practice I’m learning about IVF from babies, children and their parents and will share my experiences and observations. I hope this helps IVF parents in thinking about their child’s experience of coming into life this way whether born or unborn at the point of reading. It’s an opportunity to think about IVF from the conscious, sentient baby’s viewpoint.

There are three main areas in IVF that can potentially cause issues for babies, or that may create a need for some support in order to integrate the experience. This is not by any means a comprehensive list as we are still learning from children who are coming through IVF:

  1. Sperm and egg collection
  2. Conception
  3. “Reductions”

The Collection of Eggs and Sperm in IVF:

After the eggs and sperm have been collected they’re immediately taken to the laboratory where they are put into a dish, placed in an incubator, and the sperm is introduced. The eggs are monitored daily and if fertilization has occurred they can be transferred to the mom in 3 to 5 days.

In a natural conception a ripe egg leaves the ovary and comes into the fallopian tube where it’s fertilized by the sperm. When the sperm arrive at the egg they assemble around her corona and she begins to spin. This spinning goes on for several days until she chooses which sperm she will open to for fertilization. Watch this video for a mesmerizing look at the Dance of Love provided by Jaap Van Der Wal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyTNSxVUuyA. We might ask ourselves if this important relational dance between the sperm and egg is able to happen in IVF and how important it might be to our wellbeing? There are many mysteries and questions to be answered for us all within IVF.

In an IVF conception the eggs are ripened with fertility drugs and many are collected. It’s miraculous that we can facilitate the creation of life in this way. Dad’s sperm are also collected and taken away to either be injected into the middle of mom’s egg with a needle, or to be placed with the eggs in a dish to find their own way to the egg. I have heard IVF mom’s say, “How do I know that they used the right eggs or sperm?” In other words, how do I know this is my baby? This can be a big concern causing deep doubt and trust issues at this stage. And it’s not necessarily about the competence of the medical staff. It’s more about the extremely unusual circumstances of our eggs and sperm going out of our sight to be tended by many strangers elsewhere. IVF conception happens outside of our body, our being and our sight.

Normally, a mother would have no doubt that it was her egg and she would know to whom the sperm belonged. There would be no one else involved in the conception unless they were having an artificial insemination conception, or using an egg donor. In IVF we have a whole cast of characters involved in the pre-conception and conception phases who would not normally be there. Coming into our conception we are being influenced by the energetic field of our family around us – the family field. That field is primarily our parents and their relationship/connection but in IVF there are others intimately involved. Babies are having their own experience navigating through this elaborate process. We need to continue gathering much more information from children about how IVF is affecting them.

Egg donors can be actively selling their eggs within the community so children may have other siblings living nearby and not know that they are related. This is a situation unique to families who have used egg donors. Even though a child has never met her siblings she may have a connection to them. I’ve seen many children in SPPP play therapy sessions demonstrate strong, intricate and ongoing relationships with siblings. Sometimes to those who came in to the same womb before them, or to a sibling that came in with them and left at some point before birth. IVF children often have a very strong connection to the other conceptus/siblings and can have big feelings about their whereabouts and wellbeing. Babies can be feeling much grief and high emotions around this subject and may need support. Children communicate these relationships very clearly in play sessions where they can tell the story of the lost sibling/s and show us their connection to them.

An IVF conception is totally unique in that it’s the only time a child is conceived with both the parents not present. There is a lot going on at conception as we’re:

  • Entering into the family field for the first time
  • Coming into the physical body of our mother
  • Beginning to grow our own body at the same time as we enter into the physical realm
  • Joining the ancestral lines of our parents
  • Getting our first hit of sexuality, intimacy and relationship

How Can We Support Souls Coming in Through IVF?

I would like to see the collection of eggs and sperm in IVF procedures being held in the actual presence or, if that’s not possible, within the energy field of their parents’ deep love and connection with the sacred reverence it deserves. Rather than sending dad off to produce sperm alone the parents could do that collection together so that it’s held within their sacred and loving intentions to create a child together with love. Sperm collection could happen within a sexual connection between the parents. When mom’s eggs are being harvested let the parents loving connection and desire for a child together be primary during that process. Surely, we can find a way to support parents to create a relational field in which the extraction of eggs occurs? There is nothing more miraculous than the creation of a child. We need to find ways to bring reverence into this process called IVF, which is an assisted conception with a large cast of characters all working together. I suggest that IVF couples ask their IVF doctor to make space for connection and some privacy during sperm and egg collection. If the doctor won’t allow parents to be physically present, they can connect energetically with each other and their incoming baby-spirit during those moments to create a surround of love and welcome for baby. IVF parents can create their own rituals along the journey at various points bringing in the sacred element themselves. If as preconceptive parents you are already in communication with your baby-spirit this is good time to stay in touch so you can parent your child through the IVF procedures.

What Mikaela Taught Me About Her IVF Conception:

Mikaela, a very bright and active three-year-old, was intent on showing us what occurred around her IVF conception. She played repeatedly, over a number of sessions, with various plastic containers and trays, plastic droppers and syringes, water, paint and kitchen roll. She mixed and moved a lot of fluids from one container to another over and over again and used the kitchen roll to cover the container. This is not surprising when you think about how much movement of ‘liquids’ from one place to another is happening in an IVF conception. I have plastic trays, syringes, and droppers available in my play space and kids with a natural conception never take any notice of them. Mikaela avidly mixed and moved fluids around in the same way for 5-6 sessions as she processed what had happened and showed us (me and her parents) her experience of her conception. She was telling us, “I was there, this affected me, I remember it”. Children naturally process through play as they show us what support they need and what happened back then. It helps them to integrate the experiences in which they may have felt alone or overwhelmed. They are intensely engaged in this kind of play, and they need their parents to deeply and empathically see this event through their eyes.

Mikaela was working very hard to bring her conception back to her parents. Eventually Mikaela asked if she could take ‘it’ (the mixture) home? I gave her two plastic containers with lids into which we transferred some of the mixture. This was a new and important shift in her play. In a very sacred moment Mikaela somberly gave one container to each of her parents to carry home. I asked that her parents take extra special care of the conception mixture and that they put the containers in a special or sacred place in their home.

It’s a sacred gift to witness a child showing her conception and the return of it to her parents; she worked hard on it. This shift marked the end of her avid mixing of liquids although she would still do a little mixing in sessions at times as she moved on to process the ‘reduction’ of her twin siblings.

Conception is a sacred event and the sacred is rarely included or acknowledged during medical procedures. It’s really up to IVF parents to provide the missing aspects in IVF as they go through the procedures and it can be good for parents to get support for that journey. Our already profound understanding within SPPP of the emotional, psychological and soul/spiritual aspects of early consciousness and imprinting need to be applied to the IVF process along with much curiosity, reverence and deep thought.

It makes a lot of sense that for IVF children the absence of their parent’s presence at their conception is acutely felt by them. It is not yet possible to say what the effects of IVF conception are on our children in relation to their sense of relationship, sexuality, embodiment and spirituality. Before Mikaela’s first session she was described by her parents as ‘bouncing off the walls’. Mikaela needed a lot of containment in her sessions at times, it was as though she was going to burst out of her skin. She was holding something too big for her to hold alone so I would put my arms around her and give her something physical to feel herself against. It may be harder for these children to feel their own body boundaries or to feel contained. There are unanswered questions and certainy embodiment has to be a part of our deep consideration about IVF. It may be that they are spiritually/energetically with their parents at conception even though the event itself is physically happening elsewhere. It will be fascinating to hear the stories unfold from our babies and children.

It’s important that we listen deeply to our IVF conceived children. Let them teach us about this way of coming in to life so that we can give them the support they need to be happy, healthy and integrated. Ideally, I would like to see the medical community creating the opportunity for IVF parents to be present at their conception including sperm and egg collection and the actual conception. I’m sure that there are ways it could be arranged for parents to be there for this very important event, the beginning of a new, very wanted, and much anticipated new life.

If going towards IVF ask doctors if you can be physically present for your child’s conception as well as collection of sperm and egg. If that’s not possible you can be energetically present for the conception using visualization, intention, ritual, prayer and meditation. Some people have a connection with their child before conception. If you are one of those you can use your connection with baby to stay in touch throughout the IVF process. Find other ways to be present and involved if you are unable to be physically present. You can hold a sacred space for your magical child to come into your lives, and surround your child with your love and intentions. What a lucky child!

If you are already pregnant from an IVF conception you and your partner can connect with your unborn baby and then use your imagination to go back to his/her conception (contact me for a retroactive conscious conception visualization). See your presence and love union in your mind’s eye energetically surrounding the whole IVF process. Imagine yourselves together at both sperm and egg collection; your energy surrounding your sperm and eggs at all times including the actual conception.

Reductions:

IVF conceptions can involve more than one fertilized egg implanting into mom’s womb lining. This can often mean that at some point parents have to make a decision about whether they are going to keep all of the implanted babies. A “reduction” is a medical name in IVF used to talk about an abortion, or multiple abortions, depending on how many fertilized eggs implanted and how many babies are going to be chosen to stay. This is often a difficult decision, both a joyful moment of discovery of the pregnancy and sadness to lose those children not chosen. The abortion/s are carried out in the presence of the chosen child. Most of us are unaware of how conscious our unborn children are in the womb, and it can be hard to imagine what it must be like for a little one to witness this moment. S/he is chosen and then has to witness the loss of sibling/s. One remedy is to avoid this experience by only having one fertilized egg placed in the womb, although this does reduce the chance for pregnancy.

I recommend IVF parents who’ve had a reduction get support for their unborn baby before birth if possible. When a prenate witnesses their siblings being aborted they can feel unsafe and may continue to feel life threatened even though the actual event is over. It’s normal to go into a survival response when we are faced with, or witness, life threat in the womb. If a baby gets help with their IVF experiences before birth it will have a profound effect on the remainder of their gestation and will positively affect birthing outcomes. With early support from an appropriately trained pre- and perinatal practitioner baby can return to a feeling of safety and relaxation.

The loss of one’s sibling/s in the womb is a huge event. Many children have shown me how much their siblings mean to them, and how connected they feel. Children and babies communicate these relationships and losses to me within Womb & Birth Play or in Cranial Sacral for Babies, here are three examples from children:

An IVF Example – 1: Sam, a three-year-old boy with an IVF conception demonstrated over and again how there were three of them in the womb together. His twin siblings were “reduced” and then there was just him left all alone. He had some very mixed feelings about this time in his womb life and really needed us to deeply understand how that had felt for him. In the sessions he would tie three of us together with yarn, put us all into a small space (half bathroom) and then he directed his dad to leave the room with him. The remaining person (always me in this game) would be left alone, locked in and tied to the faucet so that I couldn’t leave. I was playing Sam in this scenario and he was able to convey to me how he had felt back then. It’s normal for children to share in this way – to create a ‘game’ that give us adults the experience of how it felt for them.

The feeling of Sam’s game was deeply sad and miserable, overwhelming with some oddly dastardly laughter involved from Sam as he left me and locked me in. His mom was always left alone in the other room. I would say out loud the feelings and experiences that I thought he would have been feeling as he listened outside the door. The dastardly laughter may have been Sam identifying with the aborting doctor. In overwhelming experiences children can manage their feelings by identifying with the powerful person in the scenario, in this case the doctor performing the “reductions”. This can feel empowering for children as they work through their feelings. This was Sam’s way of conveying what it was like for him to go through that experience. Children are very creative when they are given the space and deep listening is available.

Example 2: Ellie, a five-year-old girl, played a game with a six-year-old boy on a bike in many of her sessions. He always went on very long journeys away from his mom when she didn’t want him to, and mom never had any choice about him going away. This mom had had a miscarriage and had her lost baby lived he would have been six-years-old at the time Ellie began her sessions. Mom was sure when she was pregnant that her baby was a boy.

Example 3: Maisie, a four-year-old girl, tied babies to the end of the birthing tube in my office in every session as she explored her relationship to her mother’s three previously aborted babies, her lost siblings. She tied the exact number of babies that were lost and she was always deeply sad when showing her mom that she knew about her lost siblings and had a deep connection with them all. Her mom had never talked to her about the lost one’s and was amazed that Ellie knew all about them and had her own relationship with them too.

How children have these connections with their siblings, especially the ones that came in to life before they did, is a big subject that I can’t do justice to here. When working with adults I have also seen the profound effects of their lost siblings, twins and triplets. With IVF children who’ve experienced a “reduction” we must consider that they have not only lost their sibling/s but may have witnessed their removal in an abortion. Reductions are without a doubt one of the most traumatic aspects of IVF for a baby and it can be very difficult decision for conscious parents. I have contemplated whether it’s possible for a conscious abortion to happen in IVF “reductions” and this remains to be discovered or developed.

If we’re aware of prenatal consciousness and sentience in babies and we understand they’re having their own experience we can be better able to take care of them through medical procedures and adversity. It’s important for IVF families to have this information whether it’s before IVF, during pregnancy or after birth. At every stage of the creation journey it’s possible to bring consciousness, love, connection and healing to babies. We can make it easier for IVF children and families with support, education and understanding.

Prenatal experiences, and our womb environment influence our perceptions of life, our sense of our family, whether the world is safe or not, how our system is wired – essentially all the deep aspects of being a soul living in a body. IVF children are some of the most wanted and chosen children and they have a very unique journey into life.

The IVF process can be navigated consciously and the consciousness and sentience of our baby fully central to every moment. It’s always possible to heal and repair after the event, the earlier the better; it’s also never too late. Call me for a free initial telephone consult if you have concerns and questions about your experiences and about my work.

If you have other information to offer on this subject from your own, or your children’s experiences, I would love to hear from you.

© Karen Melton – All Rights Reserved

To schedule a FREE initial phone/video consult call (707) 829 1764 or email starbear@sonic.net

Karen Melton

7 COMMENTS

  • Chris says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post. My twins were born through IVF and I have been searching for a way to integrate that experience for them.

    I have worked on my own womb life and birth so I know something of that journey, but IVF is very special as is being a twin and I want to help my children with their paths as much as I can.

    I love that your experience of IVF children is that they are drawn to droppers and syringes. That must be wonderful to see.

    My instinct is that being a chosen embryo out of a group of blastocysts might be important. My twins in that sense are actually a set of quads. They have two frozen twins.

    I think it might be difficult for me to find a therapist who will work with me and my twins on these issues, but if that’s so, perhaps I can do some of the work through play.

    Thank you again for this post. It sounds like you are doing incredible work. Beautiful meaningful work.

    • Karen Melton says:

      Chris, thanks for the feedback, glad it helped you and your twins. If you let me know your location I may be able to let you know if there is anyone trained in my work in your location (send me an email through my web site for privacy). Otherwise you are welcome to work with me by phone or skype. Your twins are lucky to have a mom like you who is so aware! Sorry for the delayed response, I have been moving house. warmly Karen

  • Fernanda says:

    Hi. Your article is very interesting and touching to me as a mother of an IVF baby girl. During the process I had 2 embryos transfered but only one of them successfuly attached to my womb. My husband and I wanted both to survive: we gave a name and constantly think of our baby boy (we feel he is a boy). However, I had never thought about the effect of witnesing the loss of his brother on our baby girl. Could you give me some pointers or guidelines on how to approach the subject with my daughter?
    Thank you very much and congratulations on your meaningful work.

    • Karen Melton says:

      It’s lovely that you and your husband are remembering your little boy and gave him a name. Have you shared this experience with your daughter? I find that children know about lost siblings, so making him a part of the family, and including your daughter, may encourage her to begin to share her experience with you. I don’t know how old your daughter is, so I can’t be specific about how you can approach her, but if she is young enough to play then ensure she has a male figure amongst her toys that she could choose to use in her story telling. Don’t assume it is a boy for her, or that you know what her experience was back then. Make a lot of room for her, and set the play space with an intention for being together with your connection to your lost one held present. You may speak very simply to her about the lost one too, and see if she picks up on it. If she does, you may notice a certain look, or emotion, in her eyes, feel her energy change or deepen. She may begin to play and then you can listen to the story, and the energy expressed, in the play. Children usually want to tell their story over and again until they are done, she may show babyish behavior at times, and may have feelings like grief and sadness. You may say simple things to her such as, “So sorry you were so alone with that back then”, and “We miss your sibling too, honey”. Keep it simple and allow her to have her feelings. You can empathize about what it might have been like for her back then, you can’t hurt a child with empathy! If you need support with this process I can help you either in my office if you are in the North San Francisco bay area, or by video session. I’d love to hear about how it goes if you feel like sharing. warmly Karen

  • Alison says:

    I never knew that In Vitro Fertilization could have an effect on one’s baby. The comments of these persons along with your post has opened my eyes to so much! Thank you.

  • G says:

    I was conceived in 1995 in an IVF treatment centre that my parents travelled to in California from Canada.

    I’ve always felt somewhat different from others in some ways – neither as a strength nor weakness necessarily – and others have noticed it too. There have been a couple names for it, but nothing that actually describes it.

    However, today I was talking to a mentor who put it in a very interesting light. Anishinaabe beliefs see the moment of conception as a spark of a fire that is then stoked by the mother. He noticed that I was a little different – but boiled it down to my ‘quirks’. But, when I mentioned I was IVF – it hit him, that my ‘difference’ may be as a result of my conception. That being away from my parents, in a well-lit and cooler setting than would be inside the womb, could be the reason I’m ‘quirky’.

    I’ve been up for a couple hours now trying to find other’s experiences as adult IVF babies, but I have only seen a handful – this is the first post that points in the discussion today!

    • Karen Melton says:

      I was touched to hear about your feeling of being ‘quirky’ and happy to hear that you have reached a place in yourself that feels coherent with what happened in your conception period. It’s a good feeling when things slot into place at last! Yes, conception happens outside of the body and away from the parents, and is attended by strangers – that is quite ‘quirky’!

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