Whether you love them or hate them (or love to hate them), there’s one thing that’s undeniable: The Kardashians keep it all the way real. Sometimes that’s a really wonderful thing, especially when they bring awareness to pregnancy complications (see: Kim Kardashian’s terrifying experience with preeclampsia) or open up about fertility preservation, as Khloé Kardashian did.
Most recently, the eldest Kardashian sister provided an update on her IVF journey, which she’s been candid about for months. In doing so, she’s illuminating elements of the experience we don’t often see.
Kourtney Kardashian has been doing this throughout her IVF process, from sharing a photo of her “IVF body” to normalize the bloating, to speaking about the aftermath of IVF and the toll it takes on the body. But most recently, Kardashian reflected on her decision to stop the IVF process — and it’s arguably the most important topic she’s discussed in regard to her fertility journey…because it’s one so many people don’t even recognize.
Kourtney Kardashian: "[Egg freezing] isn't guaranteed."
On a recent episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, she revealed that she used eggs she’d frozen before meeting her husband, Travis Barker — but none of those eggs successfully became embryos. "The freezing of eggs isn’t guaranteed,” she said. “It’s a misunderstanding, people do it thinking it's a safety net, and it's not."
While egg freezing is an incredible technology that allows many women to build their families on their own timelines, Kardashian is right: There are no guarantees when it comes to fertility, and egg freezing is just one part of the IVF process, which is complex and unpredictable.
IVF success rates are high thanks to new technologies and practices in the field, but IVF doesn’t work for everyone, and Kardashian is shedding light on that.
She’s illuminating the experience of choosing to walk away from fertility treatments, at least temporarily, which is something we don’t often talk about. "My health is still impacted because it's hormones, and mentally it definitely took a toll,” Kardashian explained on an episode of the reality show. “I think being happy is what's important and being a good parent to my kids. We're just embracing that whatever is meant to be will be.”
Everything about this is important. We have these cultural ideas that egg freezing is a fail-safe, surefire way for someone to take charge of their fertility and guarantee a specific outcome. We think of IVF as a scientific intervention that bypasses the laws of nature and gives people a way to simply implant an embryo into their bodies, without all of the complications that can come before.
IVF is a privilege, and it doesn't work for everyone.
As a society, we’ve begun talking about fertility preservation and treatments in this really flippant way. Influencers and celebrities say things like “Every woman should freeze her eggs!” as though this is a financial reality for everyone. And “you can always do IVF!” almost feels like the new “Why don’t you just adopt?” — a modern-day version of the misguided, invalidating response many people receive when they have a hard time getting pregnant.
But none of this stuff is simple or without sacrifice. Fertility treatments drain people physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. They suck up resources and time and energy and hope and the space you want to reserve for yourself and your family. And they don’t come with the promise of a specific outcome.
And yes, privilege can absolutely simplify certain aspects of the process and help you remove obstacles from your path, but it doesn’t always make the end goal possible. Even someone with all the resources and connections and money in the world — like Kourtney Kardashian — can face complications and barriers along the way. Because at the end of the day, reproductive health can only be controlled to a certain extent.
Sometimes, "giving up" is the bravest thing you can do.
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Kardashian’s decision to end her IVF journey will resonate with a lot of people. Some may say it’s easier for her to do this because she has three children. Those who are experiencing secondary infertility know how painful it can be to let go of the idea of adding to your family, even if you’ve already been lucky enough to experience parenthood.
We live in a world where people constantly say things like “stay strong” or “don’t give up” to people who are facing hurdles as they work to grow their families, and we need to dismantle that. Sometimes, choosing to walk away is being strong. And if someone decides they’ve reached their threshold after attempting fertility treatments, that isn’t “giving up” — it’s simply redirecting. It’s okay to change your mind or change course. Because when it comes to fertility, sometimes our best-laid plans just don’t materialize, even if you’re someone like Kourtney Kardashian. And it’s about time that we acknowledge that.
This is something Rescripted Co-Founder Kristyn Hodgdon understands personally. "In the past year and a half, I've gone from 'I've always wanted three kids, and I'll do whatever it takes to get there" to 'It would be great to have a third child, but I'm no longer willing to sacrifice my physical and emotional health for the *chance* of having another baby.' My therapist calls it a cognitive reframe, but I call it post-traumatic growth and healing,” she says.
We need to face the reality: Fertility outcomes aren’t always what we envision or hope they’d be, and no one can escape from that with privilege or planning. It’s time to confront the myth that egg freezing and IVF and even things like adoption or surrogacy are surefire insurance policies that allow people to build the exact family of their dreams. It simply doesn’t always work out that way — and it’s never anybody else’s place to tell someone how to proceed when things don’t go according to plan. We all have our own limits…and it’s up to us, and us alone, to define them.
Zara Hanawalt is a freelance journalist and mom of twins. She's written for outlets like Parents, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Motherly. In her (admittedly limited!) free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling with her family.