Couples encouraged to share stories of infertility

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Infertility can be a long and difficult road to navigate, made worse by the fact many people battling infertility do so alone and without support.

It is estimated one in six Australian couples will have trouble conceiving a child, yet very few people feel comfortable discussing their fertility issues with others.

With this in mind, a new campaign is about to launch to get people to talk about their difficulties conceiving.

The campaign, which will coincide with National Infertility Awareness Week in the US, will invite couples to share their stories on social media using the hashtag #TalkAboutTrying.

And organisers are hoping Australian couples will lend their voice to the cause by sharing their stories of infertility with a global audience.

While it is estimated one in eight couples in the US will struggle to conceive, the figures are actually higher here. Yet a nationally recognised day or week devoted to supporting couples dealing with infertility does not exist in Australia.

The closest Australia offers is Fertility Week, held in October, which is run by Your Fertility and funded by the Federal Department of Health and Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services. It is backed by a Fertility Coalition of various research institutes and aims to raise awareness of the causes of infertility, but does not focus on providing support for couples struggling to conceive.

Sandra Dill started ACCESS, Australia's self-appointed national infertility support network in 1993, sparked by her own infertility battles.

Ms Dill went through 12 years of fertility treatment, including eight IVF attempts and a late miscarriage before she made the heartbreaking decision to cease treatment. She also investigated overseas adoption before her journey ultimately ended without children.

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She said ACCESS had tried and failed over the years to obtain enough funding to hold a regular week dedicated to raising awareness of infertility.

So instead, the independent, not-for-profit, consumer-controlled charity concentrates its efforts on the key area of providing much-needed support and information to couples who are having difficulties conceiving.

ACCESS provides a cohesive approach to managing issues and services for people suffering infertility, including fact sheets on the medical and emotional sides of infertility, an online community, a contact request network to put people in touch with other members via email, letter or phone, a bi-monthly E-newsletter, a register of professional counsellors in the area of infertility and a list of accredited fertility clinics.

They also run support groups which cater to different needs, such as those using donors.

Ms Dill, who was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for community service for her role as a consumer advocate in the area of infertility, said many people were too scared to talk about their infertility for fear of being judged or facing a barrage of unwanted and misguided advice from friends and family, and even strangers.

"Often when people are first diagnosed with a fertility issue they are at their most vulnerable and this is when they need support and not judgement," she says.

"They really need to be in touch with other people who are going through the same thing or have been through the same thing and can tell you, 'You will get through it in the end'.

"The most important thing is we want them to know that they do not have to feel alone.

"In order to feel support they have to be able to speak to someone who will listen, not judge people."

She says the best thing someone can do if they find themselves talking to someone who is going through infertility, is to listen.

"Just listen without making judgement. Just be supportive. You don't have to say very much at all. People just want to feel like someone cares," she said.

Ms Dill says there is no doubt the advent of social media has given people battling infertility another avenue to find support, sometimes anonymously.

She says she supports any initiative that encourages people to talk about their fertility issues.

Those wishing to take part in the Talk About Trying campaign are encouraged to share their story on social media between April 22-28.

For every social media post shared using the hashtag, Ferring Pharmaceuticals will donate $1 to a non-profit organisation in the US which is dedicated to providing support and information to those experiencing infertility.

Australians seeking infertility support can visit ACCESS at access.org.au or phone 1800 888 896.