Research has shown that women struggling with infertility experience the same level of depression as women with Cancer, HIV and heart disease and a shocking 42% of respondents in a recent Fertility Network survey reported having felt suicidal at some point. Joining an infertility support group can help a person cope better.
You grow up believing that it is easy to get pregnant and that as soon as you want a baby it will happen. For most people this is the case, so they can’t possibly understand the desperation and longing that those struggling to conceive are feeling.
Because of this lack of understanding, they just aren’t able to fully support someone with infertility. They try to help and offer comfort with comments like ‘don’t worry, it will happen’ and ‘stop thinking about it’, but to someone struggling month after month to get pregnant these words offer little comfort and almost trivialise the heartache they are feeling.
Many people suffer alone, not wanting to tell family or friends for any number of reasons (embarrassment, privacy, other’s lack of understanding), which makes the journey a very lonely one. Sufferers question their mental stability because of the thoughts and feelings they experience. They long for someone other than their partner to talk to, someone that completely understands, someone they can confide in.
This is where support groups come in…
Support groups can be invaluable when going through fertility treatment. Treatment is extremely intense, you are pumped full of hormones and the entire cycle can be weeks of intense worry and anxiety. You put all your hopes on treatment working and then analyse every symptom to prove success or failure of treatment. Knowing other people that have experienced the rollercoaster of treatment (or are going through it as you are) can make the process less scary and gives you someone to talk to.
How infertility support groups help
• You can talk openly and honestly without fear of judgement
• You know that you can be completely honest without the group thinking badly of you, they are very likely to be feeling the same.
When you tell the group you are feeling upset because another friend has announced their pregnancy, they just get it and will have your back, without questioning your opinion. They won’t think you are a horrible person, they will probably have a similar story to share.
A support group may be the only place you can be truly honest about your thoughts and feelings. This gives you a great outlet for your fears and emotions, rather than keeping them all bubbling inside.
• They can help validate your feelings
When you are questioning if you have something wrong with you mentally because of the thoughts you are having, it gives a lot of comfort to know that you are normal and that your thoughts are normal too.
I constantly questioned my ability at everything due to my inability to conceive, it ruled my life and I felt like I couldn’t do anything right or well, like I wasn’t good enough. I started to question how stable I was, and it wasn’t until I spoke to other women after my treatment that I realised that its normal. I wish I had known that as I was going through it, it would have been a huge relief to me.
• They show you that you are not alone
With a support group beside you, you know you will never be alone, if you are having a bad day you can turn to them and they will be there for you with encouraging words and virtual hugs. When you are trying for a baby it seems like everyone is pregnant and that you are the only one that isn’t, or the only one having problems. It is comforting to know you are not alone in your struggle, and to spend some time in a safe space with no babies and surrounded by others who understand.
• They can be a light-hearted break from the day to day reality of infertility
Many of the emotions felt while struggling with infertility are negative – anxiety, jealousy, grief, anger, hopelessness, sadness. Although the groups cover upsetting stories, there can often be a light-hearted side when sharing embarrassing stories about parts of trying to conceive and treatment. Everyone can relate to them and see a humorous side to them, which add a sense of solidarity over things like a shared loss of dignity
A regular face-to-face monthly meeting has been established and we meet the first Monday of the month at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. It is free of charge and open to anyone who is struggling, wherever they are in their journey. You can also join my online support group on Facebook which is a place for members to share their stories, express how they are feeling, seek advice or simply be there for others who are struggling.
If you wish to signup to a face-to-face group meeting, please go to this link and receive a free MP3 download to help you relax.