The National Fertility Society was set up just over a year ago by Chief Executive Sandra Bateman and Joanne Carwardine, both qualified fertility counsellors, who are keen to make sure anyone going through IVF or fertility treatment is offered the correct support
This is the reason the pair are calling for fertility clinics to offer mandatory counselling before IVF treatment begins.
Sandra said: “It should be made mandatory in clinics that patients see a counsellor before starting treatment for free (at the expense of the clinic), for the patients to explore their feelings about the treatment. If they have made a connection with the counsellor they are more likely to see the counsellor if they have a negative outcome.”
Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Association (HFEA) guidelines all clinics should have a counsellor and all patients be aware there is counsellor available to them, but we’ve heard lots of stories from our readers, followers and our own experiences where counselling was not thoroughly explored or offered.
Sandra has been a qualified counsellor for more than ten years in both private and NHS practices across the UK. She believes it is important to keep up to date with not only the latest techniques, but the science behind it.
What does the National Fertility Society (NFS) offer people and why is it important?
The NFS provides information to the public on fertility through events and presentations on the various topics around fertility. Giving them the information needed to help them make informed decisions through the fertility or infertility process.
The organisation also provide links to specialist fertility counsellors within their area for one-to-one help.
Sandra said: “All of our counsellor members are registered with the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists, National Counselling Society or counselling governing body and comply with their Code of Ethics and our own Professional Code of Ethics.
I feel it is important that the public are aware what is available to them and how they can access the right Support.
I am very passionate about the patients having a qualified specialist trained counsellor, for the patients to get the right support.”
Why is it important that people are offered counselling when having fertility treatment?
Sandra said it is important to seek counselling to help with anxiety and stress.
She said: “Counselling is necessary for patients having fertility treatment to ensure that their anxiety and stress levels are not aggravated. Going through fertility treatment can feel as though your life is on hold and it is hard to move forward or plan your future. Sometimes you feel as though you cannot confide in anyone who will understand what you are going through.
The counsellor is also a key role when the patients are coming to terms with using donor gametes, to explore their decision to using donor gametes. Also exploring whether to tell the child about their origins. To explore coping mechanism when everyone around them are getting pregnant.”
How can counselling help?
Fertility Support Counselling aims to give emotional support to patients experiencing distress. Coping with infertility or going through fertility treatment can be an isolating experience. You may feel you have to put a brave face on things and you may not have told anyone other than very close friends and family that you have been trying for a baby, you may even feel embarrassed or ashamed.
Sandra said: “Counselling is an opportunity to explore any emotional difficulty, fears and anxieties, or distress that you might experience during your fertility journey. It can help you cope, make choices, and change aspects of your situation. It doesn’t involve giving advice or direction to take a particular course of action; at times it may involve providing information. Counsellors give you the opportunity to express your emotions freely in a supportive environment. Baby making is supposed to be fun and easy to do. I remember in school being told how not to get pregnant, to know actually 1 in 6 couples struggle with fertility issues, the wanting for a baby takes over their life, takes the joy out of making love, it becomes about clock watching and peeing on sticks.
Sandra said there were issues with being able to access specialist fertility counselling.
“Sometime patients are not aware a counsellor is available to them, the patient could then seek a counsellor of their own that is not specialised in fertility.”
What message would you give to anyone about to start fertility treatment when it comes to their mental health?
“It can be a rollercoaster of a ride, a lot of highs and lows of emotions for anyone to manage. To have a counsellor support you through your journey will help it not be so isolating, an opportunity to give you support through those low times and help you manage your psychological well-being is as important as looking after your physical body through nutrition and exercise, counselling is nutrition for the soul.”
Were you offered counselling when you went through IVF treatment? Or are you having treatment currently and not been offered the help of a counsellor? Let us know your thoughts on this, email firstname.lastname@example.org