Kourtney Kardashian's Openness About Her Experience With IVF Is Refreshing - And Far Too Rare

Kourtney Kardashian is being praised for her honesty and openness about her difficult in vitro fertilization (IVF) journey. "The Kardashians" star, 44, and spouse Travis Barker, 47, have been undergoing fertility treatments since 2021 but recently revealed in the season 3 premiere of the show that they were "officially done with IVF" (via People). "We would love a baby more than anything, but I really believe in what God has in store for us. If that's a baby, I believe it will happen," the mom of three shared. IVF "took a toll," she admitted, ultimately concluding that, "Being happy and being a good parent is most important. Whatever's meant to be will be."

Both Kardashian and Barker have kept it real when it comes to sharing their arduous journey with IVF. Last year, Barker revealed to GQ that their decision to film their experience was in an effort to show real-life struggles that viewers can relate to. "It's real life," he said. "And if any of that can help people — seeing Kourtney's journey through IVF, which is super hard for a woman. You saw her struggle with it and talk about it. That's real." Their experience goes to show that even wealthy celebrities can struggle to conceive with IVF, promoting awareness of the common, but not readily discussed side effects that women undergoing fertility treatments endure. In Kardashian's case, she's been navigating secondary infertility and how to cope with the emotional fallout

Physical side effects of IVF

Per Penn Medicine, IVF consists of a series of procedures to assist with fertility and conceiving a child. In the first step of the process, the patient is given hormonal injections to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Then the eggs are removed via surgical procedure and fertilized in a lab. Finally, the embryos are transferred back into the uterus in hopes that at least one will implant and develop. Sometimes additional medications and different doses are required, particularly if an IVF cycle is canceled for medical reasons or is unsuccessful.

The hormonal injections, according to the Fertility Center of San Antonio, can cause a variety of physical side effects including weight gain, increased appetite, bloating, nausea, breast soreness, and headaches. Kourtney Kardashian has been open about struggling with fatigue, another commonly reported side effect, at the end of 2022 (per Cosmopolitan). She shared on Instagram, "Finally started getting my energy back 10 months after IVF, for anyone else going through it, it gets better!"

She also shut down rumors about her being pregnant, opening up about her weight gain during IVF. When one Instagram user posted "Is she pregnant," to a picture of Kardashian, she responded directly, saying, "The after affects [sic] of IVF (I only acknowledge this comment bc I do think it's important to know how IVF affects women's bodies and it's not spoken about much) ... also are we still asking women if they're pregnant?" Kudos to Kourtney for speaking up.

Emotional side effects and mental health concerns

The Poosh founder has also kept it real when it came to opening up about the mental health issues she experienced as a result of IVF. In season 2 of "The Kardashians", she opened up to her mom Kris Jenner about the critical comments she was receiving about her body, stating, "Every single person on social media is always like, 'Kourtney's pregnant, Kourtney's pregnant, Kourtney's gained so much weight.' I'm like, it's so rude to comment on people when you have no idea what they're actually going through." She went on to reveal that the medication she was on essentially put her into menopause and caused her to feel depressed. "I just feel a little bit off. I'm super moody and hormonal. Like, I'm a lunatic half the time," she told Jenner.

Kardashian isn't alone in her emotional struggles from IVF. According to Dr. Aaron Styer, founding partner and co-medical director of CCRM Fertility Boston, "New mental health issues may arise, or preexisting mental health issues may become more severe or worsen during IVF treatment." The stress of struggling to conceive combined with hormonal medication and invasive IVF procedures can be isolating and traumatic, leading to feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anger, and sometimes depression. A 2015 research study found that major depressive disorder was "highly prevalent" (39.1% of 174 women) for patients receiving fertility treatments, as well as for their partners. Some studies have found that stress alone can lead to a longer time-to-pregnancy (TTP) and increased risk of infertility, however, there is not enough evidence to suggest a definitive link.

There is no guarantee

Per People, Kardashian also revealed that she had frozen eggs from years ago that didn't survive. "Freezing of eggs isn't guaranteed. It's a misunderstanding," she explained. Freezing your eggs can be a good option for having kids if you want to wait. A 2022 study found that patients had a 39% chance of having a live birth from frozen eggs. However, the chances of pregnancy increased the younger the patient was when they had their eggs frozen, and the greater the number of eggs that were frozen.

These results are on par with IVF statistics on non-frozen eggs: success rates decline for patients over 35 and can vary with the number of embryos transferred, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). Per SART's 2020 national statistical report, 50.8% of women younger than 35 receiving IVF had a live birth of a single infant, decreasing to 37.5% of women ages 35 to 37, and 24.7% of women ages 38 to 40. With the high costs of IVF — a single cycle can range from $15,000 to $30,000 depending on medication needs — one would hope for a higher success rate, but the reality is that IVF isn't guaranteed to work and more than one cycle (possibly three or more) is often needed.

IVF has been tremendous in helping some people achieve their dreams of having a child, but it is often a challenging journey that doesn't always result in success — a reality Kardashian has been very open about. For her, taking a break or stopping IVF was the best option due to the emotional and physical costs.