Understanding Infertility

     Infertility is a condition of the reproductive system that impairs the conception of children. The diagnosis of infertility is usually given to couples that have been attempting to conceive for at least 1 year without success.

Conception and pregnancy are complicated processes that depend upon many factors, such as:

  1. The production of healthy sperm by the man;
  2. Healthy eggs produced by the woman;
  3. Unblocked fallopian tubes that allow the sperm to reach the egg;
  4. The sperm's ability to fertilise the egg when they meet;
  5. The ability of the fertilised egg (embryo) to become implanted in the woman's uterus; and
  6. Sufficient embryo quality

     Finally, for the pregnancy to continue to full term, the embryo must be healthy and the woman's hormonal environment adequate for its development. When just one of these factors is impaired, infertility can result.

     In Australia, there are many reasons people seek the assistance of an Infertility specialist. Medical as well as personal reasons such as not having a partner. Donated Gametes, i.e. sperm, eggs or embryos may be required. Surrogacy is also a legal avenue that involves seeking specialist treatment, when a women can’t safely carry a pregnancy. 

Living with Infertility

     Infertility is very frustrating as it is the one thing in life someone desperately wants but feels they have no control over. Infertility and reproductive loss can be emotionally debilitating and can have an enormous impact on your life at many levels. At least 15% of people are affected by issues related to their fertility. However, many people in the general population do not understand the emotional, financial and relationship issues you are experiencing, and have a very limited understanding of the medical aspects of fertility care. People frequently make comments and give advice (although intended to be supportive) that can be inappropriate and unhelpful.

     Other people's expectations, comments; baby showers; pregnant ladies in shopping centres; frustrated potential grandparents; pregnant sisters or work colleagues; and, miscarriages and other losses can all take their emotional toll. Partners often cope differently with stress tending to either want to find a solution or just talk about things and share feelings. People experiencing infertility and/or undergoing treatment can experience a wide range of feelings and problems including;

  • Grief and loss
  • Frustration
  • Loss of control
  • Difficulty coping with uncertainty
  • Stress
  • Desperation
  • The impact of negative results
  • Confusion
  • Information overload
  • Relationship Issues
  • Sexual concerns
  • Self-blame
  • Communication problems
  • Guilt

Treating and Coping with Infertility

     Pre-treatment counselling is an opportunity to prepare emotionally and psychologically for the challenges of treatment and to discuss coping mechanisms that can help minimise the emotional and relationship impact of fertility care. It gives people the opportunity to discuss their stress management plan and to work out how to best utilise the resources offered by their counsellor, IVF Clinic and support people in their lives.

     A knowledge and understanding of these sensitive issues is extremely important in helping people cope well with their fertility care journey. A Fertility counsellor can help with these situations by listening, helping you to develop strategies for dealing with grief, loss and trauma, dealing with sexual concerns; improving communication, dealing with disagreements, helping you to maintain a happy and satisfying relationship.

     The counsellor has specific skills and can help you to deal with any emotional issues that in turn will allow you to see your situation and options with more clarity and be in a place that will allow you to more easily focus on the care you can control.

     It is a regulatory requirement that all people requiring treatment with a donor egg, sperm or embryo or who are considering surrogacy must undergo counselling prior to commencing treatment.

     A counsellor needs to be accredited with ANZICA (Australia and NZ Infertility Counsellors Association) to provide donor and surrogacy counselling. A member since 2007, I can assist in helping individuals and couples cope with infertility issues, relationships that are affected by infertility, other peoples expectations & comments. Wanting something so desperately regardless of how hard you work, and the many areas in life it affects. I have a good knowledge and understanding to discuss these sensitive issues in order to move forward.

     There are some other practical suggestions that you can adopt to start having control over your treatment

  • Be realistic! Being positive does not get you pregnant. Being positive puts you in a confident, upbeat mood. Let's keep positivity as a goal and start being realistic. What can you do today to look after your body and to get through this stressful period .
  • Internal health is in our control, infertility is out of our control. Looking after our inner health is one contributing factor that can have a positive effect on fertility. Losing 3-5 kilos if overweight would be advantageous. Eating well-balanced meals, ceasing or reducing smoking, minimise alcohol and not using any drugs would all be ways to improve our health. Reducing caffeine would also be helpful, this includes coffee and coke.
  • Everyday meet your needs of self care. Today may be hard, challenging, not going well or full of disappointments, ask yourself what do I need to do to get through my day. This may include phoning a friend or choosing not to answer the phone. It is your choice how to look after yourself. If you are sad that you are not pregnant this month, going to a baby shower may not be helpful. However if you are doing well, enjoying yourself, able to laugh or speak about a personal issue without expressing difficult emotions, the question is what is the best way to enjoy your day.
  • Many people in the general population do not understand the emotional, financial and relationship issues associated with infertility. Talk to someone about your feelings, even if they don't understand. Having someone to support you unconditionally and listen to you is invaluable.
  • Introduce a well-balanced life. When we are trying to fall pregnant it is often on our mind when we wake up in the morning, when we go to the toilet and see others in a more fortunate position. Be mindful of continuing social interactions, working, reading, light exercise, eating well, to ensure your life is not solely about achieving this dream. Becoming 'obsessed' with this goal can be harmful if it becomes at the expense of other enjoyments like sex in a relationship for intimacy as opposed to solely for reproduction.
  • Acupuncture is one alternative therapy that research states has benefits to infertility.
  • Be aware of harmful toxins, like raw fish, foods being left in the open all day like cold deli meats, drugs and caffeine. Be aware to not become afraid of germs or common aspects in life, as this protection can become obsessive behaviour. Be aware of natural herbs and treatments that may be contrary to fertility treatment.
  • Take Elivit! Folic acid, like Elivit is essential in preparing bodies for a healthy pregnancy and foetus.

Surrogacy Counselling

  • Altruistic (non-commercial) surrogacy arrangements are legal in Queensland.
  • I am a qualified ANZICA counsellor, able to provide counselling and reports prior to the surrogacy arrangement commencing.
  • I am a qualified ANZICA counsellor, able to provide counselling and reports for the purpose of Intended parents applying for a parentage order.
  • Please note: The pre and post counsellor need to be different counsellors. I am qualified for both purposes can only provide services for one part of the surrogacy.
  • Both birth parents and intended parents must receive counselling from an appropriately qualified counsellor before entering into a surrogacy arrangement.
  • ANZICA approved counsellors like myself are accredited with Fertility Society of Australia and IVF Clinics. The same counsellor can be used for both parties.
  • Counselling will discuss the social and psychological implications of the surrogacy arrangement and parentage order. For example, implications of genetic identity for parents and child /ren, costs, relationships and hospitalisation. Counselling is recommended during the pregnancy for support if needed.