Infertility and its treatment can affect all aspects of people’s life and can cause frustration, anxiety, depression, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness.
In a 2016 study into the impact of fertility treatment carried out by Fertility Network UK, respondents felt on average sad, frustrated, and worried nearly all the time and 42% experienced suicidal feelings as a result of fertility problems and/or the treatment they are undergoing. The study also found that 70% reported some detrimental impact on their relationship.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UK’s fertility regulator acknowledge the importance of counselling being attended before you donate eggs, sperm or embryos or have treatment with donated eggs, sperm, embryo. It is a mandatory requirement that fertility clinics offer access to counselling when embarking on any fertility treatment.
At Aria, we work closely with Senior Fertility Counsellor Tracey Sainsbury who provides implications counselling for individuals and couples around all fertility issues. Implications counselling aims explore the psychological as well as the social, legal, and ethical implications around your treatment.
“I am not a tick box type of counsellor – I like to take my patients on a journey,” Tracey explains. “And every person’s journey is different – usually because experiences from the past can be triggered.” It’s estimated that 80 to 90% of people undergoing fertility treatment experience anxiety and depression.”
Managing the emotional rollercoaster of IVF
The IVF process can be a highly emotional time for both the individual and the couple, marked by highs and lows and alternating feelings of excitement, hope, disappointment or uncertainty.
“Often people have a fantasy around how they had hoped to conceive, it rarely includes assisted conception. There can be a grief response to the loss of fantasy around embracing assisted conception, even when they are keen to get started.” Tracey clarifies. “For couples, they will usually have put life on hold, telling themselves I’ll stay in this job because of maternity leave or we won’t book that holiday because we may be pregnant.”
“For women, in particular, we live in a prenatal world and suddenly everyone around them seems to be pregnant and that can feel persecutory. Then, they arrive in clinic and they are hopeful but maybe annoyed that they even have to be there in the first place. They may also feel relief because someone else is now going to take charge.
“Fertility treatment can be very traumatising and the thing with trauma is that we can be retraumatised. So, anything relating to family, hopes, dreams can bring up past trauma even from a very long time ago.”
Managing stress during your fertility treatment
“Sometimes the greatest risk to mental health is social media as it promotes this sense that you should be zen-like and positive, but fertility treatment is very stressful, Tracey explains. “So, we say be stressed but learn how to manage it well.”
Tracey promotes patient autonomy and there is no prescribed amount of fertility counselling that she recommends. For some patients this can be an initial appointment to discuss strategies for managing any stress you experience during your treatment journey. However, fertility treatment can bring to the surface long-buried trauma and emotions or put pressure on relationships and some patients – either as couples or individuals – may have weekly sessions throughout the many weeks and months that they undergo treatment.
Tracey offers a reduced fee for counselling appointments for people exploring or progressing fertility treatment with Aria. The cost is £50 per appointment, appointments are always provided online via Zoom or Teams and last around 50-60 minutes. Patients do not have to register with her private practice, and she has access to their notes, so she is aware of their fertility journey so far.
Call +44 (0) 203 263 6025 to find out more about the support we can offer at Aria Clinic.