IVF and Fertility counselling – Don’t under-estimate the emotional impacts of infertility and IVF

IVF and Fertility counselling – Don’t under-estimate the emotional impacts of infertility and IVF

Infertility and IVF are very stressful for some, that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to have fertility counselling. However, you do need to be sure that you have mechanism’s in place to be sure that you have support when you need it because the emotional impacts of infertility and IVF can be intense and can put strain on your relationship.

Is my partner enough of a support system?

This is difficult to say for certainty. Statistics show that those of reproductive age, 9% of men have fertility problems and 11% of women, this breaks down to about a third of issues within a couple being male, a third being female and a third being either unattributed or both. Which shows it’s about a 50/50 split of infertility between male and females.

Women take the bulk of the procedures and treatment through fertility testing and IVF – unfortunately that’s biology. What is clearly documented is that women also tend to blame themselves more than men for infertility and miscarriages. If these women then begin to feel emotionally unsupported by their partner then this can make things worse, couple this with the fact that infertility doesn’t have easy solutions, men can then begin to feel inadequate. Guilt and inadequacy are very powerful emotions and when this is happening coupled with the woman feeling unsupported this can lead to some challenging relationship problems all the way to divorce or separation.

The other area during infertility is the re-examination of your relationship questions such as

  • What is a relationship?
  • What is parenthood?
  • Why are we together?
  • How important is parenthood to me and what’s more important my relationship or children?
  • What if this relationship produces no children?
  • Can we afford IVF if we need to pay for it?

These are profound question which are positive to explore but can often cause further tensions and stresses on your relationship see our article on how to maintain a healthy relationship whilst trying to conceive.

As such it is vital to keep communicating with your partner but also relieve the stress on each other by having other support systems in place. Opposite is an interesting video produced by today’s parent exploring impacts on couples. 

What other support is available?

Your first line of support is friends and family who understand what you are going through. One of the suppressing things that couples often find when they decide to fight the taboo and talk about infertility and IVF is just how many people have or are going through similar situations.

Rachel and I found out that within our immediate circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances 6 different couple who had been through the journey or are at some point along it, which helped us form a small but understanding group who supported each other. Not everyone is as lucky as us and should consider seeking support from outside those groups with which they are already comfortable. There are a number of support groups in the UK which can help you below are a list of some of them


When should I consider getting Counselling or Therapy?

You can get counselling or therapy either through the NHS or privately, the one downside of through the NHS is that there is often a substantial waiting list which may mean you don’t get the support as quickly as you may need. Therapy can help with a range of issues and questions which may arise during your journey and tackling them head on can have very positive impacts upon your mental health, relationship and outlook and something I would encourage anyone who has or is experiencing the following to investigate counselling

  • constant preoccupation with infertility
  • persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • agitation and/or anxiety
  • social isolation and loneliness
  • loss of interest in usual activities and relationships
  • difficulty with “scheduled” intercourse
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • thoughts about suicide or death
  • marital and relationship problems
  • difficulty concentrating and/or remembering
  • increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • a change in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns

Where do I find counselling support?

The first point of call can be your GP. You can access counselling and talking therapies through the NHS. This has been improved recently through IAPT (Improving access to Psychological therapies) however, you can still expect to wait up to 12 weeks to access these. You can also access private counselling and some of the rates are very reasonable, the one thing that we would suggest is to choose a therapist who has experience and specialism within IVF and fertility. In the UK the best place to find a therapist experienced within IVF and fertility is through BICA (British Infertility Counselling Association).

How to choose an infertility counsellor?

It is Important that you find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable exploring challenging feelings and subjects as such you should consider the following:

  1. Make sure s/he is registered with a professional body such as BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy), UKCP (United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy) or a chartered member of the BPS (British Psychological Society). If in doubt, ask about her/his qualifications and check with the relevant professional body. If wanting to work with fertility issues, donor conception issues or involuntary childlessness, look for accredited membership of BICA (British Infertility Counselling Association)
  2. Ask for an initial two-way assessment session – remember, this is going to be an important relationship and it is worth waiting to find the right counsellor for you
  3. If you feel uncomfortable with a counsellor, trust this instinct and consider looking for someone else
  4. Ensure that you understand the fees and terms and conditions
  5. Remember you can say and explore whatever you want, so talk to your therapist
  6. Bear in mind that counselling is very rarely easy


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.