How counselling can help when navigating fertility testing and the decision to have children

by Tracey Sainsbury, Fertility Counsellor, Lister Fertility Clinic

Embarking on the journey of fertility testing can be an emotional and challenging experience, often leading to a multitude of complex feelings and uncertainties. These are often unexpected, more so when testing was done at a time when the decision to have children is unclear.

I attended a fit for fertility check to see what my options were, I was single and definitely not open to being a single mother, but my tests came back really positive. I guess I’d hoped that bad news would give clarity, but instead it confirmed how much I did want options in the future.

Claire, 38

How counselling can support you

The Open Door Counselling service provided by the Lister Fertility Clinic promotes easy access to support before, during and following fertility treatment, or where the decision is made for any reason not to go ahead.

The counselling team is overseen by Caroline Spencer, she shared that fertility testing can trigger a wide range of emotions, including anxiety, fear, frustration, and even relief. Counselling provides a safe space to express and explore these emotions without judgment, providing validation and understanding through the various feelings that arise during this uncertain period. 

Counselling can help by exploring and clarifying your personal values and goals surrounding parenthood. It helps you delve deeper into thoughts, beliefs, and aspirations, helping you understand your own desires and motivations. Through guided and reflective conversations, a counsellor can help you gain insight into your priorities and what having children means to you.

The decision to have children is influenced by a multitude of factors, including societal and familial expectations, personal experiences, financial considerations, career aspirations, and more. Having a space to explore these factors and their significance in your life can help you identify any barriers, fears, or misconceptions that might be influencing your uncertainty.

By discussing the pros and cons, you can gain a clearer understanding of the potential impact of either choice on various aspects of your life, such as relationships, career, and personal fulfilment. We don’t routinely self-sabotage; we move forwards with plans that feel right for us at that time, but when thinking about fertility, for many of my clients, that decision feels 51% right, and often no more.

Part of our thinking acknowledges that there is often a chance of treatment not being successful. If our desire to potentially parent is strong enough, freezing sperm, eggs or embryos either now or in the future, can be a good option to allow more time to move forwards with treatment. There is never an obligation to have any treatment, and in that case, support can be just as important.

I decided to freeze my eggs as I felt it was sensible to do something about my fertility; but I recognised I really wasn’t sure, I hadn’t expected counselling to be available when I decided I really didn’t want to go ahead. I am open to other paths to parenthood if it feels right for me in the future and I can’t use my own eggs, I now feel really comfortable with whatever happens next.

Sian, 29

Our fertility counsellors

A specialist fertility counsellor can support you in managing expectations, both from yourself and from others. They can help you develop coping strategies to navigate the uncertainties that come with such a significant decision, providing tools to deal with external pressures, address potential conflicts with partners or loved ones, and build resilience as you move forward in your journey.

My partner Mark wanted me to have tests, I’d not been on the Pill for a while and he has always been ready to be a Dad. I had the tests and IVF was suggested, he was ready to go. But the tests were really hard for me, I kept putting off the appointments; counselling individually and as a couple helped to keep us together, it helped us to respect each other’s perspective. It’s now been a few months and I think we will try soon, I already plan to book in counselling to help as there will always be a part of me that is fearful of losing the authentic me to motherhood, even when I want it.

Rachael, 40

Making the decision to have children is deeply personal, and fertility testing can add a layer of complexity to the process. Seeking counselling support during this time can provide clarity, validation, and guidance as you navigate through your uncertainties. By exploring your emotions, values, and goals, counselling can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your authentic self. Remember, the decision is yours, and counselling can serve as a valuable resource to help you along the way.

More about our counselling services at Lister Fertility Clinic