Many women would have liked the support of a fertility coach from the beginning of the fertility journey and believe it would have reduced much confusion, fear, frustration, overwhelm, and the slide toward depression.
In February 2012, I began surveying women about their experience with the pursuit of parenthood and the fertility challenges that came up for them. By the end of March, I closed the survey so that I could take some time to organize and reflect on what participants had shared with me.
Depending on the ability to coordinate schedules and each woman’s desired level of participation, some surveys were conducted on the phone, in person, or via an electronic form. Much of the survey content is derived from the story-telling of each journey, but there were some yes/no and categorized-answer questions as well.
While each journey is significantly unique, there are some very clear common threads, the most obvious one being the focused, driving desire to become a parent. This focus is usually directed toward becoming pregnant, but sometimes intended parents find themselves making choices from a menu they had never considered part of their palette.
Here are some of the highlights:
93% of survey respondents have had, are having, or plan to have fertility treatments of one kind or another. Treatments are defined as actions on the physical body to enhance chances of conception and delivery. These actions may include acupuncture, herbs, dietary changes, application of oral or injectable medications or hormones, medical investigative procedures, and surgeries.
67% of participants who are no longer trying to conceive and deliver their first child said they would have liked the support of a fertility coach during their fertility journey. Many sought out support from online forums and friends who had also experienced challenges. Many expressed an interest in a managed and directed support group for women specifically going through same treatment protocols provided by fertility clinics. Many also believed that having the support of a fertility coach from the beginning of the journey would have reduced much confusion, fear, frustration, overwhelm, and the slide toward depression.
On average, women tried for 3 or more years before actually conceiving and carrying to term or giving up on the idea of carrying their own baby. This includes women experiencing secondary infertility as well as those trying to have their first baby.
It surprised me that only 17% of the women I surveyed were considering adoption or had found adoption to be the right answer for them. Those who have adopted are consistently and markedly passionate about their choice, and they generally feel moved to encourage others to include this option on their list of possibilities.
In general, the use of donor eggs and the option of surrogacy were not included in the vision of possibilities even when I asked the question directly. The idea of donor eggs evoked sadness at the thought that they would not be part of the makeup of their child. Some women were turned off by the cost of these two options, which is interesting in light of the fact that almost 20% would consider adoption even with it’s high cost. However, it is informative to remember that foster-to-adopt programs greatly reduce the cost.
94% of the women I surveyed responded that they experienced a couple or all of the following feelings: failure; disappointment; betrayal.
67% of the participants believe they would make different choices if they were to rewind and start over. The most popular changes mentioned include:
~ Moving forward with life goals and activities instead of putting life on hold while trying to conceive
~ Letting the desire to be a parent affect them sooner rather than waiting for the “right” time
~ Discontinuing relationships that got in the way of pursuing the desire to become parents
~ Getting clear on the desire to be parents and seeking help sooner
~ Pursuing satisfying information and answers, no longer tolerating unanswered questions and confusion
Although there are plenty of other larger, more clinical and academic surveys done in this area, I wanted to do my own query into the things that struck me personally as important considerations. The questions I created were initially sparked from reflecting on my own fertility challenges and the desire to have a fuller understanding of the vast range of experiences encountered on this path. I have learned so much by connecting with the survey participants and their stories, and I know that the quality of the service I can provide has improved as a result of this expanded perspective. Thank you to everyone who contributed and participated.
If you are interested in sharing your fertility journey story with me — whether you’re just beginning, are in the middle of it, or have moved on — I would love to hear from you. Please contact me in any of the ways mentioned on my Contact Page. If you have comments or thoughts about the results I’ve presented here, please share in the comments thread below the post.
Have you been the partner, friend, or relative of someone facing fertility challenges? I’d love to hear your observations of their journey too. Please contact me using any of the ways presented on my Contact Page.
I look forward to hearing from you and thanks for reading.