Fertility treatment is challenging and if you’re feeling upset or confused, it can be hard to know who to turn to for help. It is increasingly common for fertility patients to use the Internet where they can talk to one another about their fears and concerns, and this kind of peer support can be helpful – but when it comes to coping strategies and looking at the wider picture, you may find it useful to seek the support of a qualified professional.
Worries about seeking professional help
People are sometimes reluctant to seek help from the professional counsellors or therapists at their fertility clinic, perhaps fearing that this would send a signal that they are not coping or even worrying that any uncertainties they feel may be reported back to their doctors. In fact, seeing a counsellor is not a sign that you are not coping, but rather a sign that you are actively doing something to try to help yourself through your treatment. It is also important to understand that counselling is confidential and what you discuss in a counselling session is between you and the counsellor. If your counsellor had concerns which they felt the rest of the team should be aware of, they would discuss this with you first rather than telling other staff.
Counselling is not for me
If you’ve had counselling or therapy in the past and know it has been helpful, you may be pleased to find that there are fertility specialists in the field who can help you. For others, however, the whole idea of counselling or therapy can be difficult. Some people feel that counselling would be intrusive or too personal, and may be certain that they don’t want any professional help. You may think that you have plenty of support from your partner, friends and family and that you don’t need to talk to anyone else.
This may be true at the start of your treatment cycle, but sometimes people who have felt this way can realise that they need more help when they are in the middle of a cycle. If you do suddenly find that things are getting difficult, it is fine to change your mind about this and to ask if you can see a counsellor. You may find it beneficial to talk to someone who has no personal involvement in your situation, and who has time to sit and listen to what you have to say.
What will happen if I have counselling?
Sometimes people are put off counselling because they are worried that they will be somehow forced to discuss issues or emotions which they have been carefully keeping buried away during their adult lives. Remember that it is up to you what you disclose in a session with a counsellor, and that they can be a useful sounding board for your feelings and emotions.
If you are having treatment with a partner, a counsellor will often like to try to talk to you both initially, but this may not always be possible. Some men are more resistant to the idea of counselling, and it is fine if just one of you wants to see if counselling can help. What happens during a session is down to you and your counsellor, but you will work together to try to find ways to make your situation easier to deal with.
If you’re not sure whether you’d benefit from counselling, it may be worth trying at least one session to chat to a counsellor. If you decide that it’s not for you, that’s fine, but you may discover that it can make all the difference to how you feel during your treatment cycle.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.
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