I started my fertility journey in 2010, just after I got married. While I did not hide my struggles, I did not exactly broadcast them either. Instead, I found an almost secret society. It came by way of making a random comment, getting an interesting look from a colleague or client, and then we knew. We knew we were both either currently struggling or had struggled in the past with fertility. We built an instant bond!
Today, for those struggling to conceive, the available resources have exploded. Now, one is almost dealing with too much information to sift through! Unfortunately, even with the vast number of resources, many struggling with infertility feel more comfortable isolating. However, while isolation may feel safe, it may end up leading to a worse situation – depression and anxiety, as shared by Pam Kelberg, LCSW, Licensed Sex Therapist.
Struggling with infertility, which affects 7 million Americans, is as distressing as being diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or HIV. Infertility is such a difficult diagnosis, especially when people are on social media posting about their kids and pregnancies and then you find out “everyone” around you is pregnant, the automatic response is to isolate.
The good news is there are many trusted ways to find your tribe so that you don’t feel alone. Additionally, these groups provide you a place to be honest, hear from people like you and yes, vent/scream/cry…or even sit and listen.
We’ve summarized eight avenues for support.
1. Your personal network
What surprised me during my journey was just how many people struggled with infertility. The frequency at which I met these individuals had me question whether there were “only” 7 million Americans struggling. Perhaps, like me, you will find the person who you say something to in a certain way where you will look at them and know you have a bond and can talk. Alternatively, if you have a confidant, see if they have a recommendation for someone to speak with…or perhaps they will listen.
2. Psychologist/Social Worker
Fertility clinics realize the importance of psychological support for infertility patients such that they hold support groups at their clinic, have someone on staff, or refer patients to someone they trust. Look for someone who specializes in infertility.
If you are struggling to find someone, Resolve offers a list you can search by your location.
3. Resolve: The National Infertility Association
Resolve is a non-profit organization that both provides information and advocates for those struggling to conceive. They offer two avenues for support
Live Support Group: You can enter your address to see if there is a support group near your location. The groups are run by those who have been in your shoes. They are not licensed therapist, but instead act as moderators. I’ve played this role on many occasions (and still do) and found it incredibly rewarding.
Help Line: Call 866.NOT.ALONE. Leave a message at the extension related to your specific concern and a trained person who has been in your shoes will return your call within 1-3 days. Examples of support categories include IVF, living child free, recurrent miscarriage and secondary infertility.
4. Fruitful Fertility*
Founded by Elyse Ash, who struggled with infertility herself, she wanted to fill the gap that hashtags did not solve for – that personal touch. Fruitful Fertility offers a free fertility mentorship program that matches women beginning their fertility journeys with those who've been there.
500,000 downloads strong, Peanut is an app aims to connect like-minded women about their fertility and motherhood. You can create groups, opt into existing groups, mark any shared information as sensitive, and make anonymous posts. In the media, it is being called the “Tinder for Moms.”
6. Facebook and Reddit Groups*
Social media has become a unique source for being, well, social! There are online groups for trying-to conceive (TTC), infertility, secondary infertility, male infertility, and support groups for a given fertility tracking app or device. The list goes on. To join, find a group of interest and read the rules for joining and staying in the group. Given the sensitive topic, most are closed groups that do not allow advertising.
7. Support groups within fertility tracking apps*
8. Support Groups for Specific Populations
Single Mothers by Choice (SMC): There is a specific support group for SMCs called, well, Single Mothers by Choice! They provide support for women considering the journey, on the journey, or have delivered a baby. Support includes blogs, a membership-based community, and professional support from those experienced in this space. For additional suggestions for SMCs, check out our blog post.
LGBTQ: At this point in time, the best resources appear to be offered from the fertility clinics themselves. Trying to conceive for this community involves and incredible amount of logistics, which are added to the already complex fertility process. Our best suggestion is to interview the clinics, ask lots of questions, and feel like you are properly taken care of.
Male Factor Infertility: Mensfe, which had over 100,000 visits in October 2019 alone, aims to empower all men to have greater control/choice over managing/coping with their fertility. The offer live support as well as helpful information targeted toward the male population.
Be mindful that when one posts on an online support group, we only hear part of the story. Thus, while one may be quick to make a comparison, know that there is a whole medical history not shared in a single post. Yes, it is important to find “someone like me” to assess how to handle challenging situations, but it is also important to know their entire background to best assess whether their actions align to what you should do. Nonetheless, it is certainly helpful to hear other perspectives.
Before making major changes that impact your mind and body, always seek professional advice.