Support group helps couples struggling with fertility

1 in 7 UK couples will experience fertility issues, Hull and East Riding Fertility Group offers support.

1 in 7 UK couples will experience fertility issues [source: nhs.net], yet it’s rarely spoken about and far less understood by most people. This week is Fertility Week 2019, and a local support group is working with the charity Fertility Network UK to raise the profile of the needs of people trying to conceive. 

Roseanna Cawthorne, Founder of Fertility Group Hull & East Riding said: “Infertility doesn’t discriminate. It affects all types of people across our community and being unable to experience a fundamental aspect of life such as parenthood can be truly catastrophic for individuals. It can attribute to mental health issues, relationship breakdowns and accumulating debt. 

“Often what people don’t realise is, if you can’t get pregnant naturally, IVF isn’t a quick fix. It takes a long time to be referred for treatment and involves numerous invasive tests to be diagnosed. Sometimes you may not even get a diagnosis. Many people are not eligible for NHS funded treatment and even those who are may only get one cycle. The technology itself isn’t a silver bullet, and unfortunately fails more often than it succeeds [source: hfea.gov.uk]. So there’s an enormous amount of pressure on people when they do go down the IVF route for that treatment to work. 

“Unfortunately, unless someone has experienced it themselves, most people won’t understand the magnitude and complexity of infertility. People in our group have all been asked the seemingly harmless but torturous question: ‘so… when are you going to have a family?’ or worst still… ‘why don’t you just adopt?’ – but this doesn’t help people trying to conceive. Not everyone can or wants to adopt. A simple question or comment can trigger heartache. The truth is, some people spend years and pay thousands of pounds in treatment with no guarantee of a baby at the end. 

“It’s incredibly complicated and there’s no quick fix or one size fits all. Fertility treatment for single people and same sex couples is increasing [source: hfea.gov.uk] but the information and support is patchy and inconsistent. That’s why I felt so strongly that there needs to be a place locally where people, no matter their individual circumstances, can come and speak in confidence with others who understand the depth of what it feels like to desperately want a family. We are primarily a support group, so we share experiences and discuss coping strategies. However, we also invite guest speakers to provide the group with helpful unbiased information. In the past we’ve had staff from the IVF clinic, a nutritionist, wellbeing expert, and an infertility counsellor come and present. We also have a Facebook group [details below] where people can ask questions and get support from others.”

Fertility Group Hull and East Riding meets on the first Monday of each month.

Kirsty Baker, who has run the group with Roseanna for over 2 years, and has gone through IVF herself, has this advice for anyone undergoing fertility treatment: “For anyone undergoing treatment related to fertility I would encourage them to come along to our group. Our group have supportive, likeminded people who all know what it feels like and what you are going through. It’s not something you think you will ever have to go through until it happens and then it can feel like your whole world has ended. At the group we try and share our experiences and give advice on strategies that may help others. We listen, we talk, we understand.”

A survey conducted by Fertility Network UK and Middlesex University revealed the shockingly high link between infertility and mental health issues, as well as the impact on relationships and employment [source: http://fertilitynetworkuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/SURVEY-RESULTS-Impact-of-Fertility-Problems.pdf ]. 90 per cent of respondents reported feeling depressed and 42% suicidal. 54% had to pay for some or all of their treatment; 10% spending more than £30,000. 70% reported a detrimental effect on their relationship with their partner and 75% noted the lack of a supportive workplace policy. 

“This is really just a snapshot of the different areas of a person’s life that fertility problems can effect,” says Roseanna “but it really doesn’t demonstrate the rollercoaster of agony we see on an ongoing basis.

“If you’re wondering what you can do to help, please try to refrain from asking people if they’re going to have a family – they may have been trying. If someone close to you is in this position, be patient and empathetic. Lastly, please spread the word about this support group, because it’s very likely you know someone who it would benefit.”

The Hull and East Riding Fertility Group meets on the first Monday of every month, 6.30 – 7.30pm at the Lonsdale Community Centre, 8 Lonsdale Street, Hull, HU3 6PA.

The next meeting takes place on Monday 4th November and will have guest speakers from the local IVF clinic available to answer questions. It is free to attend and doesn’t require registration.

For more information, visit www.fertilitygrouphull.com or join the closed Facebook group (search ‘Fertility Group Hull & East Riding’)

[Roseanna Cawthorne – Fertility Group Hull & East Riding]