Counselling for fertility issues

People described different experiences of counselling. Some spoke very highly of their counselling and recommended it for others going through infertility. Others described negative or unsatisfactory experiences or a mixture of good and bad experiences. Clinics do not all offer the same approach to counselling – it is sometimes standard, or as Sally described hers, “pretty much mandatory”, while elsewhere it is offered as an extra which needs to be paid for.
Some wanted counselling but had difficulty finding anyone suitable in their area or on a day or time that suited them, or coincided with their greatest need (for example just after a cycle had failed). Sandra was not sure whether they were offered counselling and said that it might be better to make couples more aware of what is available. She felt that she needed counselling straight after a treatment cycle had failed but that often it was not available until weeks later. Martha, an American living in the UK, struggled to find anyone to talk to about her infertility and she felt her clinic should have helped her find someone.
Finding a counsellor that felt right was not always easy. Steve and his wife were not offered counselling by their clinic and although they joined a support group it did not provide the kind of support that they were looking for. In the end they went to a marriage guidance counsellor as a last resort.
Some were not so lucky in finding someone who suited them. Joanna saw a general counsellor and wondered whether seeing someone with a specialist interest in fertility would have been better. Clare said it was hard to find the right counsellor but very valuable if you do find the right one.
Several participants spoke very positively about their counselling. Naomi said that it offered her a “license to air my feelings” and Fiona that it allowed her to “let off steam”. In addition to helping offload anxieties and worries, counselling could help people deal with their sense of isolation from friends and family. It could also help with the grieving that some felt they needed to go through.
Couples do not always respond to infertility in similar ways and counselling sometimes helped people avoid consequent difficulties in their relationship. Michelle and her husband were encouraged by their counsellor to write their feelings down which they found very helpful, although she did rather dread the appointment. Clare and her husband responded to their infertility very differently; she felt lucky to have found a counsellor who helped them understand each other and deal with issues as a couple.
Christine found the counselling she embarked on after a series of miscarriages and the death of her father very helpful. Sarah was helped by her cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) after stopping treatment and before starting adoption proceedings.
The timing of counselling was important. There were times when it felt appropriate or helpful and others when it was not. Clare talked about planning to see a counsellor before and during her upcoming cycle of IVF. Fiona (above) reflected back on how counselling was valuable at a later stage when her treatment was over and she was having to come to terms with not being able to have children of her own.
Not everyone was positive about the counselling they had received. Some did not get on with their counsellor and felt they asked inappropriate or insensitive questions, others were frustrated that their non-specialist counsellors seemed unaware of issues raised by infertility. Some just felt that they had nothing to say and it was therefore not terribly useful. A lesbian couple thought that seeing a counsellor was a required part of the process; they were worried about whether they were going to give the ‘right’ answers and did not feel that they gained anything from the meeting. Carol had a session with a particularly insensitive counsellor. 
Not everyone wants counselling. As Belinda pointed out, the sessions can be time consuming along with all the other treatment appointments at the clinic. Some were resistant to the idea of counselling, preferring to manage without. Others felt that they did not need it.

​Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated July 2017.


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