Living without children

For many couples, treatment does not work, or they are not able to afford to continue with treatment. While adoption may be an option for some (see ‘Adoption’) others come to accept that they will not have children. Deciding to stop treatment can be extremely difficult, and people are sometimes left feeling anger, grief and relief.
Some people we spoke to were still in the process of coming to terms with their treatment failure. Maggie, who had stopped treatment 5 years earlier, acknowledged that she would always want to have a child. Sarah had also stopped treatment and felt isolated, disappointed and cross that the future she imagined for herself, as a mother, had been taken away from her.
However some people we spoke to were very positive about their life without children. Others were accepting that treatment had failed and a childless future was the only option. 
Sally and her husband stopped treatment over a decade ago. While at the time she found it difficult to give up on treatment, she now reflects positively about the life that she and her husband share. She feels that that she has had far more time for her marriage and has been able to pursue her career, which she would not have done had she had children. She and her husband have a lot of children in their lives, through nieces, nephews and god-children. 
Some described themselves as optimistic about not having children. Tim and his wife had been pursuing fertility treatment for eight years. Tim described himself as “not bothered” if their treatment wasn’t successful. His attitude was that he would not miss what he had not had, although he admitted that it could be his way of coping with the disappointment, and his wife did not feel that way. Naomi had treatment over a six-year period before finally conceiving twins with donor eggs and sperm. She described a discussion she and her husband had as they faced the last stages of their treatment, where they agreed that their lives would be OK without children.

​Last reviewed July 2017.


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