We wanted to know more about counselling for fertility and approached Sandra Bateman, the CEO of the fantastic National Fertility Society to explain more about the many reasons it can help.
Coping with infertility is hard and finding help and support from a professional counsellor can help. You might be thinking that seeing a counsellor could help you cope with the emotional struggle of infertility. Or it could be that your fertility consultant may recommend or require you to see a counsellor before certain treatments such as egg or sperm donation. Egg and sperm donors themselves are also required to see a fertility counsellor before they are allowed to donate.
There are many reasons for reaching out for the support of a Fertility Counsellor and just some of these I have listed here.
When you feel fertility issues have taken over your life
Fertility can really overwhelm you. If your sadness, depression, worrying or anxiety is prolonged and affecting many areas of your daily life, then it is important to seek professional help. A counsellor can teach you coping mechanisms and strategies to hopefully help with some of the depression or anxiety.
When fertility issues are affecting your relationship
Relationships are put under tremendous stress when going through fertility issues. It’s the kind of stress that can bring you closer together at times, and at other times pull you apart. The effect fertility issues can have on your sex life also adds strain to a relationship, fertility issues are hard to deal with, but it’s even harder if you don’t have the support of your partner or spouse. Sometimes, your partner is the only one who can really understand what you’re going through. Counselling can help you understand each other better and how to support each other.
When to see a fertility counsellor
A counsellor who is specially trained in working with couples with infertility can help you sort through your options. The counsellor can help you make informed choices, and help you consider what your treatment options may involve, including the emotional and financial stresses of those choices.
A couple sometimes hit a crossroads in terms of treatment decisions and it can be helpful to explore these decisions with a specialist counsellor, especially when there is disagreement about what to do next, having a third party and a safe place to talk can help.
Before beginning your IVF journey it could be a good time to meet your counsellor, to ensure you feel comfortable with them and to explore your feelings.
Many people are not prepared for the additional stress of what is involved in the IVF process. Speaking with a counsellor before beginning the IVF cycle can also help with your journey.
When you need to make a decision
Have you been told to consider gamete donations, surrogacy or adoption?
This is one of the most important times to see a specialist fertility counsellor, when a couple or individual is considering using third party reproduction or adoption to create their family.
When considering the use of an egg donor, sperm donor, or embryo donation, counselling is important for you to understand the implications of using donor gametes. The same for surrogacy and adoption. The emotional impact of making choices like these can be intense, something that some couples may underestimate. There are significant losses that must be acknowledged and grieved when moving from IVF using your own gametes to third party donors, surrogates or adoption.
When talking about gamete donation or surrogacy, some topics that a counsellor will speak to you and your partner about include:
- Clarifying why you’re making the choice.
- Confirming that it’s a joint decision, something both you and your partner agree on.
- Talking about whether you’ll tell friends and family about your decision, and if yes, how and when you might do that.
- Consider what it might mean to you and your future child if you choose gamete donation.
- If a donor or surrogate hasn’t been chosen, a discussion of the criteria you’re looking for in a donor, and why.
Couples should feel good about themselves and the treatment cycle as they move forward. This is the time to acknowledge and work through any grief or fear in forming a family by using donor gametes.
Whether it comes after years of treatments, or early on with a realisation that the available options aren’t right for you, realising that you’re not going to have children is extremely difficult. Counselling can help with processing the emotions that come with this decision.
When a couple feels they are at the end of treatment options, they have two choices, either to live childfree or adopt. None of these decisions are easy ones. It is important that you come to an actual decision to live childfree and not just let time pass without doing any more treatment or adopting. It is extremely difficult but empowering for you to make your decision will help you take control.
Like More Support
Maybe you’re not feeling particularly depressed or anxious, and you don’t fall within any of the above. But you feel like you could use more support, someone to talk to, who can give you more tools for coping. Counselling can be a good choice for you, too. You don’t have to have a reason, you don’t have to wait until you’re feeling so overwhelmed or that you are depressed and having anxiety attacks. Seeing a counsellor is nothing to be ashamed of, whatever your reason, or non-reason is, you should know that you don’t have to go through this fertility journey alone and without help. There are specialist fertility counsellors out there who are trained to help you and if you could use the extra support, reach out for it.
Thank you so much to the wonderful Sandra Bateman for her fantastic advice.
To contact Sandra or any of her wonderful team at the National Fertility Society, just click here.