How can trying for a baby affect a couple’s relationship?
A couple’s relationship can be affected in many ways when the time comes to try for a baby. It can be a real emotional rollercoaster – from the ups of making the decision to start a family, the intimacy in trying, and dreams of what the future holds, to the downs of anticipating ‘the right time’, the pressure to ‘perform’, cultural pressure, and seeing friends and family around you become pregnant when you are struggling. All of these things put immense pressure on a relationship, and all sorts of questions can surface, giving rise to strong feelings about self-worth, guilt, even jealousy. This is why the counselling element of Fertility Support is incredibly beneficial - it enables couples to share the load. I have seen many couples in this situation, and although this part of the journey is difficult, it usually does make their relationship much stronger.
What approach do you have a counsellor for a couple who are struggling to conceive?
As an accredited counsellor and psychotherapist, trained in ‘person-centred’ counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), I can offer a range of tools. Usually the ‘person-centred’ approach works best when dealing with sensitive issues, giving the client an opportunity to talk through their own personal experience. CBT can also help with behavioural and communication issues within a relationship, if this is where a problem lies.
If one person in a couple is ready to have children how should they approach the subject with their partner?
This is usually a subject that is discussed quite early on in a relationship and then readdressed as the time draws closer to make the decision to start to try. If, at this stage, there is a division in thinking, couples counselling can be a good opportunity to explore how each partner feels and why. I have seen this disagreement to be a sign of other issues in a relationship (e.g. fear of commitment, past issues from childhood), so this is where ‘person-centered’ therapy can help.
What are the most common struggles people face when trying for a child?
I’d say the main difficulty is the ability to stay optimistic. It’s important to be positive and keeping the intimacy fun and loving, rather than making love just during that window of opportunity and just to get pregnant, but that is easier said than done.
There’s also external pressure – whether it’s the pressure to feel happy for friends or family members when they announce they are pregnant, or people asking when you are going to start a family.
That’s why it’s a real relief for many of my clients to be able to be able to vent these anxieties to someone independent, in complete confidentiality.
How can acupuncture help fertility?
Acupuncture boosts fertility in many ways, for both men and women. It can help to regulate cycles, giving women a better understanding of their hormonal patterns to predict ovulation. It can also improve blood supply to key areas – i.e. uterus and ovaries for women, and testes for men. Acupuncture has also been shown to boost the production of dopamine which decreases stress levels, which of course aids both sexes.
Why is it a good support to talk to other like-minded people in a group?
Group therapy isn’t for everyone, but some clients do find it incredibly beneficial. It helps people to understand that their feelings are normal and they are not alone, and it’s a great place to access the most current information, such as the different experiences of fertility drugs and clinics.
Why is it so important to plan your pregnancy?
To maximise your chances of conceiving, it’s important to look after your body and mind, and prepare as well as possible.
Psychologically it also takes some preparation – it’s a big thing to accept that you’re about to become responsible for another human being!
Make sure your diet is healthy and balanced, cut down on alcohol, exercise frequently and take time to relax – this is something that acupuncture can be a great help with. And of course, have lots of fun trying!
In what ways do you help positivity and renew a sense of hope in your clients if things have gone wrong?
I am very connected to each of my clients, and it’s always very sad when things go wrong.
In the counselling room we explore the feelings they are experiencing, and work through these. Naturally, it can take months to even consider trying again, but when the couple is ready we begin to look at options. Once the client has accepted the loss, the healing can begin.
Please can you tell us a bit about your professional background?
I am an accredited counsellor, psychotherapist, with qualifications in psychology. I am a trained acupuncturist, and I have worked in the field of fertility since 2002. I have specialist training in fertility and work with the best fertility clinics in London. For instance, I am a founding member of the Zita West affiliate network (a renowned fertility support network) and have been working with her for over a year now.
Perhaps one of my most valuable assets in understanding my clients, is my first-hand experience, having gone through my own infertility journey. I set up Fertility Support to combine this knowledge, experience and qualifications, and personally help couples who are struggling to conceive – I work with each individual or couple that comes to me, and never pass them over to someone else unless a referral to another type of specialist is required.
What is next for you?
I have just started working alongside Dr Rina Agrawal at the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire( CRM Warwickshire). CRM Warwickshire offers fertility treatments such as IVF, and is one of the first CRMs in the country to begin adopting a more holistic approach to helping its patients. It is now referring couples and individuals to Fertility Support for services to complement their treatment at the CRM, and I’m very excited to be a part of this.
I would like to continue to help couples to be as happy and joyful in their relationships as possible, and achieve their dreams of having their beautiful families, be that through assisted conception, donor conception, adoption, surrogacy, or sometimes deciding to be child free.