Seeking support during a challenging time makes life’s difficulties more bearable. Therefore, having support during your fertility journey is crucial for your fertility health. Support from family and friends is extremely helpful, but there are several other ways to receive support too such as doctors, therapists, and support groups.

Asking for support may come more easily for some people than others, particularly when it comes to such a personal and sensitive topic as fertility. Because of this, you may prefer to join support groups where you know that other people are going through a similar experience and may have more insight than other people in your life. However, it’s also important not to withdraw from friends, family and your existing support system under the assumption that they don’t understand.

Support and Your Microbiome

There have been several studies confirming a relationship between stress and microbiome composition. Microbial volatility is influenced by stress. The more stress we have, the more volatile the microbiome is. Volatility correlates with biological measures associated with stress. However, studies have shown that the more social interaction a person has, the less microbial volatility they have, while the people with less social interaction had more microbial volatility.1

Support and Your Fertility Health

Social support (either peer-to-peer or in groups) can have a significant impact on infertility patients, according to several studies. Patients who perceived that they were lacking social support had worse quality of life. A 2014 review found that the lack of social support and neuroticism/escapist coping caused more distress.2 Therefore, increasing social support may improve patient self-esteem and decrease mental symptoms.

Different Types of Support and Therapeutic Approaches

Group support for infertility patients is an effective way to reduce stress during treatment. Teaching relaxation, breathing, self-help techniques and self-awareness in a group setting decreased stress for patients in treatment.2 

Therapy may also be a great opportunity for you to receive one-on-one support in a more individualised way. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you to become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking patterns. People who have used CBT can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them more effectively. This type of therapy can be a helpful tool in treating mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. CBT also helps people with relationship conflicts to learn better ways to communicate, manage symptoms and emotions, and overcome emotional trauma.3

Another form of therapy, cognitive coping and relaxation intervention (CCRI) has been found to have a positive impact on improving the psychological health of patients with infertility. Psychosocial interventions, with an emphasis on cognitive behavioural therapy, could be effective in reducing psychological distress as well as being associated with a significant increase in pregnancy rates.3

How to Find the Right Support for You

  • Search for a support group online. There are several different fertility support groups, and many offer services remotely as well as in person.
  • If you are undergoing fertility treatment, ask your doctor or clinic if they have support groups or recommended therapists
  • Don’t give up if the first support group isn’t a good fit for you, there are lots of different options so it’s just a matter of finding the right group for you.
  • Seek psychosocial support. Research suggests patients desire peer mentoring, written information, or psychological counselling. 
  • Consider CBT. Cognitive behavioural therapy could be an effective way to reduce distress and improve clinical pregnancy rates.
  • Lean on your friends and family when you need them. They are your best support system, and they know you best. Don’t keep your loved ones in the dark but instead go to them for the support you need.
  • If you are in a relationship encourage your partner to find support too. It’s not just the person who will go through the pregnancy who needs support. Having separate external supports for both of you may help to take some strain off your relationship. 
  • Tell your partner, friends, and family how they can support you. Everyone has their own style of providing support which might not be what you want. Some people naturally try to come up with solutions when what you want is someone to listen to you and empathise. 

Taking the step to receive extra support can be scary. Support doesn’t have to be in a formal group setting, or a clinic, for you it might be an online group or a walk with a close friend. Asking for support is empowering and will greatly improve your path to fertility. You will be so glad to have other people with you to help you through the difficult patches and to celebrate good news. As the saying goes, “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.” Your fertility journey may be different to other people’s, so having the right people on your side along the way can be enormously helpful. With the right support, you can look after your mindset and the other pieces of the fertility jigsaw will fall into place.