How does infertility counselling help?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sandra Hewett BA (Hons), FdA, MBACP, MBICA
30th November, 2013
Discovering that you are unable to conceive a child without medical intervention is a very distressing life event. There are so many thoughts and emotions swirling around inside you that some possibly won’t be apparent or acknowledged. Loss, guilt, shame, bewilderment and resentment are among these. However, feelings might be put to one side as you embark on a journey – some call it a treadmill – of fertility treatment. This article is for couples and individuals who have discovered that they are infertile and are trying to deal with its potentially crushing emotional onslaught.
Research shows that most people handle the stresses and anxiety of infertility treatment without counselling. Partners might support each other; single people might have someone else to talk to. However, this isn’t always satisfactory and thousands suffer without the professional counselling that could help them be more resilient through the process and to continue life, with or without children, in a more contented state.
Infertility has many different sources, and in addition to medical conditions situations can include single people without a partner, gay couples, vasectomy, cancer and infrequent (or no) sex between a couple. The journey people take goes through so many stages and decisions: realisation, deciding whether to see a doctor, receiving a diagnosis, deciding (or being told) whether treatment is worthwhile, NHS eligibility, finances, cycles of treatment, pregnancy tests and the final outcome. The decision to stop treatment (or being told to) can be both traumatic and yet a relief. Even pregnancy and resulting children can bring worries, particularly if they are not the genetic child of both parents; in donor situations there are third parties and half or full siblings looming on the horizon in years to come, and information to convey to the child.
Relationships can founder; family members and friends are likely to become involved. In short, it is likely to be one of the most complex aspects of your life and will continue with you throughout your life. So, counselling can address a whole range of worries and fears, and if they are not explored at the time they can fester for years.
How does counselling help you? We have already talked about the range of emotions that can flood you, so at its basic level counselling is an opportunity to express and explore these feelings. For a couple it is a chance to talk openly together, which could help them to continue talking together at home. For single people it may be the only outlet available to express fears and concerns, or to enable you to talk to close ones.
Counselling can help you consider your choices which arise throughout the treatment and to make more thoughtful decisions.
Although it is not relationship counselling, inevitably some couples will want to talk about issues that arise such as a lack of communication between them or how their relationship has changed.
Much of the counselling will be around hopes and fears and the difficulties experienced with family and work colleagues. And some people, with the luxury of time, will use it to explore the meaning of children and family and look for meaning in a child-free life.
Appropriately-trained counsellors will have taken specialist counselling courses from organisations such as the British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA).
 Pengelly, Inglis and Cudmore 1996
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