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…

Free fertility support

Cmhc-LqWYAAWk88In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the numbers of people offering fertility support services – often at premium prices from people who have no relevant qualifications and limited knowledge or expertise. What many people don’t realise is that the national charity, Fertility Network UK, provides an amazing range of support services which are all completely free.

The Fertility Network Support Line, run by a former fertility nurse, Diane, offers a unique fertility support service. Diane has a wealth of experience and has worked for the charity for more than 20 years, She can help not only with minor medical questions but provide you with the help you need based on her years of experience, and all calls to her are in complete confidence.

The Support Line has often been described as a ‘lifeline’ by those dealing with fertility issues. It is very normal to feel isolated, out of control, lonely or depressed when dealing with infertility, and Diane is there to help. No question is too trivial to ask and even if you just want to talk you can give her a call on 0121 323 5025 between 10am – 4pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or email her at support@fertilitynetworkuk.org.

Of course, that’s not all the charity has to offer. You can find a wide range of support groups right across the UK, an online community, a Facebook page and masses of information. Do check it out now at fertilitynetwork.org and save the money you were about to spend – or perhaps consider donating it!

Why it’s worth considering a support group

images-2Going along to a support group can seem a bit outdated when so much support is online now, but there is still a place for the old-fashioned way of getting together. The survey released for National Fertility Awareness Week by Fertility Network UK and Middlesex University found that just 17% of respondents had attended a support group, but more than half (52%) would have liked to attend one if they’d had the opportunity.

It isn’t easy to go along to a group for the first time, and the very idea of a “support group” can sound off-putting. I think people often imagine something terribly gloomy and it can take courage to take the first step and commit to going to a meeting. In fact, most people who do get as far as going to a group tend to find it incredibly helpful. There’s something very empowering about being with other people who understand what it’s like to experience fertility problems, to share experiences and to learn from one another. People are often surprised at how upbeat and cheerful the groups can be. Of course, there is sadness sometimes but there is also a lot of laughter and many friendships are forged.

If you have a group near you, why not give it a try – and if you don’t, maybe you could think about setting one up yourself? You don’t need any special training as a group can be a simple matter of arranging a get-together at a local cafe. Those who have done this in the past have found it to be incredibly rewarding at many levels – you may be interested in this article by Fertility Network UK volunteer Ridhi Sahi about her experiences and you can find out more about volunteering as a support group organiser here.

Support for South Asian women

images-2If you are from a South Asian background and experiencing difficulties getting pregnant, there’s a group in London just for you. A new Infertility Network UK group is being set up in London for Asian women. It will be a friendly and informal group, which will be open to all. For more information please contact Anita at asianfertilitygroup1@gmail.com

Want to know more about adopting after fertility problems?

If you’re interested in finding out more about adopting after fertility problems and live in or near London, you may want to come along to the next meeting of the Central London fertility group in Vauxhall on February 4th. We’ll be joined by a speaker from First 4 Adoption who will be giving a short talk about adoption and will then be around to answer any questions you may have. We will have time for our regular catch up and chat too.

This is open to everyone and is completely free – if you’d like more details, email katebrian@infertilitynetworkuk.com

The group is run, funded and organised by the charity Infertility Network UK.

Eastbourne support

images-2Infertility Network UK are launching a new support group  at the BMI Esperance in Eastbourne. If you live nearby, why not go along? Support groups are an invaluable way to get together with others and share experiences. Most people find it incredibly helpful and rewarding if they do manage to go along – the groups are informal and chatty and not at all intimidating!

If you’d like to go, you can contact Hannah who will let you know when there’s a date for the first meeting – email  hannahtramaseur@infertilitynetworkuk.co

Looking after your emotional well-being talk

If you’re based in Northern Ireland, you may be interested in a talk about looking after your emotional well-being on Wednesday August 5 at Portadown. The talk will be given by Cherith Edgar and is organised by the local Infertility Network UK support group there. The meeting begins at 7.30 pm and you can find details here 

Support groups and clinic open evenings

I’ve just updated the list of clinic open evenings, support groups and events on Fertility Matters, so if you’re trying to decide where to have treatment or want to find out more about what might be on offer at different clinics, do take a look.

It’s really worth going to open evenings at a few clinics if you have a choice locally, as it not only gives you insights into whether a particular clinic might be right for you but can also be a great source of information about fertility problems and treatments. There will usually be staff on hand who you can talk to and who will be able to answer any questions you have. I think you can get quite a good feel for a clinic at an open evening – and that does help if you’re trying to decide which clinic you want to attend.

I know not everyone likes the idea of a support group. I was talking to Natalie at The Fertlity Podcast about this recently as sometimes there is an idea that support groups might be depressing – and having a fertility problem is depressing enough without making things worse – but actually I think they can be surprisingly uplifting. When you get together with others who are going through similar experiences it can be empowering in a way that talking online will never be. The groups I’ve been to have beeb positive and supportive, and often end up in laughter – which isn’t what you might expect. So I’d say, why not give one a try? It might not be what you expect – you can find the list of groups on the Events page!

Linking up with others and getting support – NIAW day three

I was really pleased to hear that the fertility support group at Complete Fertility in Southampton had a successful launch this week, and am looking forward to hearing about the new group in Fulham starting tonight – and the other new groups starting around National Infertility Awareness WeekDownloadedFile-16 too – there’s the St George’s West London group, the Fertility Circle at London Fertility Centre and the secondary infertility group for those who are already parents too.

Some of the groups I’ve been to in the past have been hugely successful – others have been quieter – and they do seem to go in peaks and troughs.  It made me think about the whole idea of support groups, and whether it’s the name that puts some people off?  Would you be more likely to go along to something that was a talk on a specific fertility-related topic with the opportunity to chat to others at the same time?  Or would a more casual coffee morning type event be more attractive than an actual group?

I think sometimes people imagine support groups being slightly alarming – but in fact they are quite laid back affairs where people have an opportunity to get together with others who are going through similar experiences and to talk about how they’ve been getting on. It’s not the same as talking to friends or family because these are other people who genuinely understand where you’re coming from because they’re in exactly the same place.

I’d be interested in your thoughts though – would you be more willing to go to something that wasn’t called a “support group”?  And if so, what sort of event would interest you?

Fertility support in Woking

wish-groupIf you’re anywhere near Woking tomorrow – Tuesday 24 September – and want to find out more about sources of support during fertility treatment, come along to the Woking WISH group and find out more. I’m going to be there tomorrow evening.  It’s a great support group with a real variety of speakers and is welcome to all – see details here and hope to see you there!