If you are trying to decide whether to pursue treatment for infertility, at what point do you start thinking about adoption? For many infertile couples, adoption tends to be viewed as a "last resort" for having a baby—something to investigate only after all fertility treatment options have been exhausted.
But should adoption be the first path to parenthood to consider? If happiness and well-being are a priority, then the answer may be yes, according to a new study that says infertile couples who adopt are more content and have a better quality of life than couples who undergo fertility treatments—whether or not those fertility treatments result in a baby.
Researchers compared approximately 500 couples in Sweden who fell into one of four groups: those whose in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments resulted in children; those whose IVF treatments failed; couples who decided to adopt after unsuccessful IVF treatments; and couples with no fertility problems. They measured quality of life among couples with a series of surveys that scored psychological well-being and feelings of connection.
When the results were tallied, couples who adopted had far and away the highest quality of life, according to researchers, followed by those whose IVF treatments had been successful, and couples who never had fertility problems. Least content were couples whose IVF treatments had failed and who were still childless.
Researchers say that, first of all, their findings show that having kids makes us happy, however they enter our lives. "Quality of life is strongly linked with children, irrespective of whether they're the result of spontaneous pregnancies, adoption, or step-children," says professor Marie Berg of the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, who worked on the study, via a university press release.
For infertile couples weighing their options when it comes to fertility treatments, the study also provides a good reason why it might be wise to start exploring adoption right along with fertility meds and IVF.
"The results show that it can be important to consider adoption as soon as couples seek medical help for infertility, especially now that we know that adoption enhances quality of life," continues Berg. "As things stand, the issue of adoption is pursued only once IVF treatment has failed."
Jennifer Reynolds, currently undergoing fertility treatments in hopes of conceiving her first child, says this information gives her pause.
"We're using IVF, and I am very optimistic about our chances," she says. "But I do want to know more about adoption, since the goal is a baby... and seeing my dream for that happy little family become a reality. As we go through this process, I am realizing the value of being open to all avenues for welcoming our child into our lives."
Interested in learning more about adoption? According to AdoptUsKids.org, the first step for a domestic adoption is to contact your local child welfare office or a private adoption agency in your area to understand rules in your particular state concerning adoption or becoming a foster parent. Often, you will be asked to fill out an adoption interest form or be given the opportunity to attend an adoption education seminar to learn more.
Some couples may choose to work with an agency, though others may decide to go the route of private adoption, meaning they find a pregnant women who is giving up her baby and come to a legal agreement, typically with the help of a lawyer skilled in negotiating adoptions. One recent buzzworthy news item highlights the story of Dan and Tracy of Minnesota, a couple who adopted their child via Craigslist when a pregnant women in Arizona spotted an ad they had placed.
Dan and Tracy now openly talk about how they chose adoption over fertility treatments, something that for them, made more sense.
And you know what? They look really happy.