Ignorance isn't bliss

We hear quite a lot in the news about infertility and how it now affects one in six couples, we are told how successful IVF is today with new legislation coming in to actually prevent the number of twins being born as they are such a drain on NHS resources.

And yet as some of us know that is not the real picture today in the UK;, last year the HFEA published figures showing a national success rate for IVF as being 23.1% - hardly what you’d class as being favour some. The odds are stacked against you, the cost if you don’t qualify for NHS treatment can be exorbitant and yet what can cause far more upset is the emotional scars and hurt from well-meaning comments delivered by well-meaning friends, colleagues and relatives.

If you’re already a Mum, especially if you’re a mum with young children it can be hard to imagine what life would be like without your family – without the noise, the chaos, the money going out day in day out. Imagining a life childfree can almost bring some moments of escapism and fantasy, more money, less mess to tidy up, exotic holidays, more time for you! Sounds great, doesn’t it? Often the reality is life with your family brings much greater highs than those that money can buy.

Having experienced infertility and now running two online communities for people who are experiencing infertility or living involuntarily childless I am reminded day in day out how a lack of awareness can lead to these well meaning comments that hurt so much.

‘You just need to relax’ is a common one, often given with insight from a friend, colleague or relative who tried for a few months to conceive. ‘Never mind you can always adopt’ is another gem, often followed by ‘Once you adopt you’ll get pregnant, I know xyz did that!’ The media portrayal of adoption is often even glossier than that of infertility. What often goes unmentioned is the team of support staff helping the Brad and Madonna’s of this world who could to pay for professional help if they need it in the future.

When people experience another illness; as infertility IS recognised as an illness by the World Health Organization, others may provide helpful suggestions or advice; but in the case of discovering someone you know has infertility it really isn’t necessary to comment on how they put their career first and what else could they expect (never mind they were single until they were in their mid 30s), suggest they get dogs? Or to point out the benefits of living childfree as they see it – rather than childless as is the reality.

Family comments about their relative’s infertility can be even less well thought out; hearing of comments such as, ‘Enjoy your life without kids, we never planned on having you anyway.’ ‘You can borrow your niece and nephew any time, you’re welcome to them’. ‘Are you doing it properly?’ Hmm no answer to that one really is there? But comments like these are shared on a regular basis on our forums.

What people experiencing infertility need is a bit of empathy, sympathy and support; often just acknowledging how difficult it must be for them and equally how difficult it is for you to understand can be enough. Many of our members say how friendships change as their infertility journey takes hold; how they benefit from speaking to others who understand. You can too!

It is because Infertility Network UKunderstand that we have reviewed our factsheet for friends, colleagues and relatives. It can be downloaded as a resource for you from infertilitynetworkuk.com/?i... We hope you find it useful, but more importantly we hope it helps your friend, your colleague or your relative to feel better understood.

And you can really help by coming along to the Fertility Show fertilityshow.co.uk

Empowering for patients and pals too!

1 Reply

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  • This is a really wonderful posting Tracey, if I felt brave enough I would put a copy of this in all my Christmas cards this year! I do think it is a basic lack of awareness that means your friends and family at times seem to struggle to know what to say or do......all us girls need is the occasional hug and a heartfelt acknowledgement that suffering infertility is extremely painful. I always ask my friends, to just try, for a minute to put themselves in my place, faced with not knowing if i will ever have a successful pregnancy or become a parent, living my life on hold, subjecting myself to invasive procedures&unpleasant drug regimes. In my experience, friends don't want to imagine, as it's too upsetting for them......which shows them just how awful this experience is. I've tried to encourage them to have a look on INUK as well, to learn more about infertility.

    It is also true, your friendships DO change, you feel worlds apart from your pregnant/mummy friends, which is why INUK has been my lifeline over the last year, I've made some really strong bonds&friendships with others who understand Infertility&it means I know I have somewhere caring to go to when i need it, rather than burden friends who just can't quite give me the support I need.

    R x

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