Infertility Support Groups

May 17, 2010Carole 1 Comment »

Facing infertility can be challenging, forcing couples to take a crash course in the medical aspects of treating infertility and emotional challenges that infertility creates. Infertility diagnosis and treatment leave many couples emotionally drained and needing encouragement and support. Sometimes the support of friends and family is not enough. Face-to-face and virtual support groups exist with different benefits from each.

Why use a support group?

Finding out that you need help getting pregnant can shake you emotionally because it is always unexpected. After all, our parents had kids so we assume having a baby is the easiest thing in the world. With an infertility diagnosis, you have to rethink all your assumptions about having children. What was once the most private part of your relationship becomes a medical procedure: invasive, embarrassing and uncomfortable. Both men and women can feel that they have failed themselves and their partner if they can’t easily conceive a baby. Sharing all your hurt and anger with your partner can damage your relationship because you both need reassurance and may feel guilty or too emotionally hurt to be able to console each other. Support groups provide emotional support and information regarding all your options for treating infertility or if infertility treatments fail, adopting a child or living a child-free lifestyle.

Why friends and family may not be able to help

Sometimes the friends and family you usually turn to for support may not be able to help you with this problem. It’s difficult to share infertility concerns with your friends when they are having their first child, or their second child easily. Your friends may be dealing with parenting issues and complaining about their kids while you’re thinking , “if only…” Even worse, they might be “complaining” about their super fertility and their ” oops” baby. Family and friends are often uncomfortable about discussing infertility. Well-meaning family may say things like “just relax”, which may make you want to strangle them which is not really relaxing, is it? Friends and family are often poorly informed about reproduction and may give you advice that harms more than helps. If you are considering using donor eggs or sperm, family may not be supportive of this choice.

Considerations

With the variety of support groups available, you can probably find a good fit for your personality and needs. There are two main types of support groups: face-to face groups and Internet virtual groups. Face-to-face groups are comforting if you need a hug and want to establish friendships in the “real world”. The downside of face-to-face groups is it is harder to discuss embarrassing topics if you see that person outside the support group. You risk a loss of privacy when you share information directly in a local group. Because the information you share is not just yours, but also reveals private information about your partner, it is much more difficult to discuss openly all the concerns you have in a face-to-face group. Sessions with an infertility counselor are another option for emotional support with privacy, but can be expensive. Internet support groups are advantageous because you can get emotional support in an anonymous setting for free. You can use an anonymous screen name so no one will recognize you in the real world. Another benefit of the best Internet support groups is that you can access accurate up-to-date information about every aspect of infertility diagnosis, treatment and life beyond infertility. Some Internet support groups also provide financial help, in the form of grants, for infertility treatments. Finally, Internet groups are available 24/7, especially useful when your infertility worries keep you up in the middle of the night.

Recommendations for the best educational Internet support groups

Three Internet infertility support groups have established a reputation for providing accurate infertility information, directories of affiliated treatment providers as well as friendly discussion forums for every conceivable concern.

Resolve is a non-profit infertility support group established in 1974 which advocates for infertility issues, such as equal access to infertility treatments and mandating infertility insurance coverage in every state. Resolve’s website has information about state-by -state insurance laws mandating infertility coverage. Because Resolve supports the formation of local chapters you can find local meetings for face-to-face support. Resolve also has a section For Family and Friends designed to help the people around you understand what you are going through.

The InterNational Council on Infertility Information Dissemination (INCIID,  pronounced “inside”) is a non-profit Internet fertility support group started in the US but has since expanded to include international members. INCIID has an IVF scholarship program to help couples without insurance who have financial need. 

They also have physician-moderated forums that answer questions on-line.

Path 2 Parenthood, formerly known as the  American Fertility Association specializes in educational and emotional outreach through multiple electronic means such as an on-line medical librarywebinars, daily fertility news by email and a toll-free support line.

Your religious perspective

There are many religious-based support groups on the Internet and in local places of worship for infertile couples. Some religions do not support assisted reproductive treatments like in-vitro fertilization. However, support groups for almost every theological viewpoint are available to assist couples struggling with infertility. Some of the emotional support may be coached in terms of living with infertility, rather than treating infertility.

Other sources of emotional support

Numerous books have been written on every emotional aspect of coping with infertility. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine  has a list of book reviews on books written for patients dealing with infertility.

Misconceptions

The biggest misconception is that if you are facing infertility, you are alone. Decades ago infertility was not discussed and little could be done to treat infertility. Times have changed. Infertility affects 1 in 6 couples today and everyone knows someone who is struggling with infertility. Treatment options exist for almost every infertility diagnosis. Infertility has come out of the closet and people are more ready to reach out to each other than ever. Finding a support group you are comfortable with has never been easier. Don’t let the emotional stresses and concerns that come with infertility overwhelm you and your partner.

© 2010 – 2015, Carole. All rights reserved.

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