Counselling

Counselling

Finding out that you need help to conceive can feel daunting and is often suffered in silence. Friends, family and colleagues may not be sympathetic, and you and your partner may find the stress and anxiety interfere with your relationship. You may both have already gone through tests and investigations that intrude into the most private and intimate areas of your lives. You may have spent hours, weeks, or years waiting.

Taking some private time and space either individually or together with a trained counsellor is not about ‘not coping’. It is an opportunity to look at the issues in your lives that have been raised because of the situation you are now facing. You may need to express feelings of anger, grief, desperation, isolation and envy, to enable you to cope and continue with your everyday life. It is sometimes easier and feels safer if there is an understanding third party there with you. You might also want to share the various mix of emotions – excitement, joy, ambivalence, fears and relief – of successful treatment with someone outside of your immediate circle of family and friends.

Why is counselling important during fertility treatment?

As part of our ongoing patient care, counselling is routinely offered at any time before, during or after treatment. Even if you feel fine, you may find it useful to talk to somebody impartial about your situation.

Counselling during fertility treatment is important because:

  • It is essential when having fertility treatment using donated eggs or sperm: If you are using donated eggs or sperm in your fertility treatment, then implications counselling is a requirement so that you understand the emotional aspects, legal aspects and implications.
  • It gives you an active role in a process that often leaves you feeling frustratingly inactive: Counselling is confidential, friendly and tailored to your needs. It is not being told what to do, feel or think. You are not being judged or assessed. It can provide an important outlet for negative thoughts and emotions which you might find difficult to communicate to family and friends.
  • Routine counselling for all patients is supported by the HFEA: The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) considers fertility counselling to be a key element in the provision of fertility services for all patients.
  • Good mental health is linked to better treatment outcomes: It has been proven that the chances of success in fertility treatments are higher in patients with good mental health.
  • Anxiety has physical repercussions and can impact reproductive health, such as ovulation: It is estimated that women with high anxiety levels ovulate 20% less and are 30% less likely to conceive. High levels of stress and anxiety can also contribute to a 20% higher risk of miscarriage. If you are finding the process particularly stressful, there is no shame in seeking help.
  • It can help you process and understand difficult aspects of fertility treatment: Counselling can help you deal with aspects of the treatment process which can be distressing and emotionally challenging, such as facing a negative result, processing the implications of donor conception, or embarking on a fertility journey as a single parent if you choose to have fertility treatment alone.

Confidentiality

At IVI, our in-house fertility counsellors follow regulatory guidelines set out by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the British Infertility Counselling Association (BICA).

Any information you disclose is confidential and will not be fed back to any other member of staff unless it causes concern about harm to yourself, others around you, or the welfare of the future child.

In these instances, the counsellor will always talk to you first to find the best way forward before informing a member of staff.

As part of their professional development, the BACP and BICA require that your counsellor is independently supervised. As such, they may share some information with their supervisor but this will be completely anonymous.

Booking a counselling session

How do I book a counselling session?  If you are a registered patient, please contact your medical team by telephone, email or through our Patient Portal App to book a counselling session.

How much will it cost?  One counselling session is included free of charge with each treatment cycle. If you require additional sessions, each additional session will cost £ 140.

How do you deal with finding out that you have a fertility problem?

Facing up to infertility requires physical and mental energy, and it is important that both you and your partner prepare yourselves for the emotions that you are going to experience. Some of the most common emotions include: shock, looking for someone to blame, anxiety, depression, anger, despair, loss of control and loneliness. These are all perfectly normal feelings and the majority of couples who undergo assisted reproduction treatments feel the same way.

How does the counselling programme work at IVI?

At IVI, our counselling programme identifies your problems, anxieties and causes of stress and aims to intervene through cognitive behavioural therapies and self-control techniques. It is designed to help you overcome the symptoms of anxiety and stress which frequently occur during fertility treatment. It can also help you overcome any difficulties you are having communicating with the people closest to you (your family, friends or colleagues) as well as with your medical team.

By attending counselling individually or as a couple, it can help to restore self-esteem which can be negatively affected by fertility treatment. It can foster a closer connection with your partner by helping you learn how to cope with a difficult situation together with each other’s support.

The importance of psychological, mental and emotional wellbeing is well-documented when it comes to fertility treatment. By keeping anxiety levels under control, it can improve treatment outcomes. At IVI, we are here to support you at every stage of your fertility journey and our dedicated in-house counsellors are at your disposal if you seek help.

If you begin a treatment with IVI, your Patient Care team will provide you with detailed information about our counselling programme, including how to access the free counselling service that is included with every treatment.

How do you make difficult decisions during fertility treatment?

When experiencing infertility alone or as a couple, you may face several serious or difficult decisions.

Within a couple, the partner who is experiencing a specific problem or issue may feel under increased pressure when it comes to expressing what they want. In these instances, it is important that you feel able to express your thoughts, feelings and emotions when entering into any type of fertility treatment.

Male partners sometimes feel worried about choosing a type of treatment that requires invasive techniques, such as surgery or daily injections, for their female partners.

Other couples may find that they have different rules of play regarding the time, effort and money that they are considering dedicating to treatment.

At other times, the decision about when to say “enough” can be one of the most difficult things to discuss.

We know that in any couple there may be differences of opinion or difficulties in the relationship when faced with a problem. Professional counselling, which is included free of charge with all treatments at IVI, can help by giving both you and your partner an outlet to express themselves and letting your counsellor help you navigate solutions.

Is it normal to find day-to-day life difficult during fertility treatment?

When you’re facing fertility issues, there are certain times in daily life which can make you feel more depressed and low on resources. Preparing for these moments can help you to manage them.

It is important to remember that you do not need to be present at events or take part in activities which you find challenging. On these occasions, it is best to take the time you need for your mental and emotional wellbeing. However, you will also need to be prepared for situations which might initially seem easy, but quickly become impossible to deal with, such as taking part in conversations about pregnancy, babies or children, or conversations with pregnant friends during your fertility treatment. Holidays and birthdays may represent an additional source of anxiety because they can act as a reminder of time passing. Many patients experiencing infertility also find social media can exacerbate these difficult occasions.

Difficult emotions can also arise during visits to the doctors. If you are processing a failed cycle or a negative test result, you may feel distressed or overwhelmed by the information or assessments communicated by your consultant. Additionally, if you have periods, you might find the arrival of your period can be become an extremely difficult event. This is very normal, especially if you have been trying to conceive for a long time.

On these occasions, you and your partner may consider the possibility of giving up on treatment and question whether it is worth doing. Out of the rollercoaster of emotions experienced during fertility treatment, this is one of the most difficult. At IVI, our in-house counsellors can help you process and understand your situation, as well as provide counselling to prepare for future incidents which may overwhelm you.

Many couples experiencing infertility find support in speaking to others who are in, or have been in similar situations. There are a large number of infertility support groups who can provide a wealth of help, resources and support, which can make daily life feel more manageable.

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