Have you tried a support group?

If you’re immediately thinking “I don’t need a support group” or “I don’t like the sound of support groups”, “Aren’t they full of needy people?”, “Wouldn’t it be a bit embarrassing?” or “I think it would make me feel worse” – think again…

“I don’t need a support group” – Does anyone absolutely need a support group? Not really – but for those who go along, it can be a welcome additional source of companionship and support. You may not need a group, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find it helpful.

“I don’t like the sound of a support group” – I often think that calling fertility networking groups “support” groups is one of the most off-putting things about them. The idea of a support group conjures up visions of having to start by saying “My name is x and I am infertile”. It’s not like that at all. Think of a support group as a way to meet up with others who are going through similar experiences and an opportunity to share and learn from one another.

“Aren’t they full of needy people?” – No, they are full of people like you and me. We all need help sometimes, but the groups are full of people who are actively doing something about this and have decided to help themselves. They’re the stronger ones who are finding ways to get the support we all need during fertility tests and treatment.

“Wouldn’t it be a bit embarrassing?” – People are often anxious about going along to their first support group. Fertility problems are so personal and so intense and it can feel frightening to think that you are going to open up a bit in front of others – but remember you don’t have to. What you say in a group is up to you. Some people talk a lot, others a less depending on how they feel and what they need. A group is a source of warmth and friendship rather than of embarrassment and most people overcome any shyness very quickly.

“I think it will make me feel worse” – You might think that an evening focusing on fertility would be a rather gloomy and miserable event – and that it would be full of tears and sadness. In fact, in every support group I’ve ever run, there has been far more laughter than tears – if you don’t believe me, why not try one and see…

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying a support group. Fertility Network run them right across the UK, and groups are listed on the Fertility Matters events page so you can find your nearest group. Go along and see what you think – you may find you are pleasantly surprised…

Thanks to Steve McCabe

We should all thank Steve McCabe, the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Selly Oak for raising the issue of NHS funding for fertility treatment in a Backbench Business Debate at Westminster supported by Tom Brake, the MP for Carshalton and Wallington, and Ed Vaizey, the MP for Didcot and Wantage. He’d been contacted by a number of constituents about the problems of the postcode lottery for fertility treatment, and called on the Health Secretary to investigate the cost disparities and the variations of IVF provision across England to find out why NICE guidance isn’t being followed universally.

The Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said that she would be writing to NHS England to ask that it communicates clearly with CCGs the expectation that NICE fertility guidelines should be followed by all.

It is a difficult time for the NHS which we know faces financial challenges, but stopping funding IVF would make little difference to the monetary woes – and indeed may actually end up costing far more if you factor in the long-term distress and depression caused by not being able to access treatment and the risk of patients having multiple embryo transfers overseas and returning with multiple pregnancies which can lead to health risks for both mother and baby.

The debate at Westminster was not well-attended, despite a big campaign by the charity Fertility Network and the campaign group Fertility Fairness. If you haven’t written to your MP about the problems of the postcode lottery yet, it is not too late. You can find details of how to find your MP and what to write on the Fertility Network website and if you are interested in watching the Westminster debate, you can find it here 

New name and logo for fertility charity

Cmhc-LqWYAAWk88Infertility Network UK, the country’s support charity for anyone affected by fertility problems, is set for a change of name and logo! From mid-August, the charity will be Fertility Network rather than Infertility Network.

It’s a welcome change – the term “infertility” is no longer so widely used and in fact the majority of those experiencing difficulties getting pregnant are sub-fertile rather than truly infertile. The new name also reflects some of the wider interests of the charity, around campaigning for better fertility education for young people for example.  Here’s a preview of the new logo and colour scheme!  A new website will follow and will be launched in the Autumn at the Fertility Show.

Feeling lonely

93px-Depression-loss_of_loved_oneOne of the worst things about infertility is the isolation that it brings – if your friends and colleagues all seem to be getting pregnant and having babies, you may feel you are part of a shrinking circle of people without children.  You may start to find that when you go out with a group of your friends, the conversation soon turns to birth plans or weaning – not only do you not have anything to say, it’s also yet another reminder that you don’t have what you most want.

How to combat isolation

One of the best ways to deal with this sense of loneliness is to get together with other people who are going through similar experiences and who will understand exactly how you feel. You may want to do this through an online forum, such as Infertility Network UK‘s Health Unlocked or Fertility Friends, or you may want to actually meet up with other people – and again Infertility Network UK can help with get-togethers across the country.

You may be surprised how much difference it can make to talk to other people and share experiences – and this kind of support can give you strength and resolve as you go through tests and treatment. There’s nothing to lose by giving it a try, and everything to gain. You can find a list of free get-togethers around the UK here