This week is National Fertility Awareness Week. Culminating with World Fertility Day on 2 November 2019, Fertility Network UK’s focus throughout the week includes: the impact of infertility on your mental health; infertility in the workplace; men and infertility; and fertility education. A huge number of important issues are raised, and stories shared, which helps us to see that infertility touches the lives of many people in many ways.
In this blog, I share my personal experience of dealing with fertility issues and how I as a family and divorce lawyer witness the strain it can place on relationships.
My personal experience with fertility issues
It took me a really long time to get pregnant. My husband and I are fairly organised people who are used to being in control of our lives. When we decided to try to start a family, we didn’t expect it to happen straight away but we certainly weren’t prepared for such a wait nor the toll it would take on us emotionally. Following numerous tests, the results of which didn’t identify any issues, we were referred to a consultant for further investigation. In the meantime, I had been recommended acupuncture and saw a practitioner who specialised in fertility and I became consumed with learning about the best diet and exercise for getting pregnant. Unfortunately, the wait on the NHS was long so we decided to book a private consultation. Following an ultrasound and further tests, I was told that my womb lining was thin and I was referred for a tubal patency test (also known as a HyCoSy). I had been told anecdotally that people often fell pregnant after the HyCoSy as supposedly it can help having your tubes flushed through. We were over the moon, therefore, when I fell pregnant shortly after it and following a long time trying, lots of tests and a “silent miscarriage”.
Trying to get pregnant was one of the most difficult periods of my life and I know that I am one of the lucky ones. Although it took a long time, it happened naturally and I have a beautiful little boy. I relied on a huge amount of support from my husband who felt helpless and wasn’t used to seeing me unhappy. The acupuncture, tests, repeat tests, appointments and treatment took up a large amount of time and meant that I had to juggle time out of the office also. I wholehearted agree, therefore, with the Fertility Network UK’s focus on fertility in the workplace (helping employers provide a supportive environment) and fertility education. In my experience, nobody talked about the fact that it could take a long time to get pregnant nor that fertility issues were so common.
Fertility issues and the impact on relationships
From my personal experience, I relied heavily on my husband for support and to pick me up each month when we weren’t pregnant. As a family and divorce lawyer, I also regularly see first-hand how relationships for those struggling with fertility do not always survive and how the stresses surrounding fertility issues can be too much. The first part of our job when we see new clients is to talk to them about their hopes for the future and whether they want to try to save the relationship. We often refer people to counselling, which can be to explore reconciliation if they are open to this or, if the relationship is over, to help them navigate the separation process emotionally while we deal with legal aspects of it.
As family lawyers, we also help those looking to start a family and have the pleasure of meeting people who have become parents through a number of different routes. We help parents who are entering into separate co-parenting relationships; who with their partner have had children with a known donor; who have children using a surrogate; who are adopting; and/or who are looking after step children or are doing it on their own.
Being a parent is a wonderful thing and with the many family structures we see today, it can come in many different shapes and forms but we recognise the emotional, practical and sometimes legal challenges it can present for individuals and relationships.
Focus weeks like National Fertility Awareness Week are extremely important as they encourage people to talk about the issues they have faced. It is likely that someone else has been or is going through the same thing and with dialogue, support and education, there should be less reason to feel alone.
Should you have any questions relating to fertility related issues, please contact a member of our family team.
- Pressing pause on parenthood – when relationship breakdown affects consent to storage and use of embryos
- Pressing pause on parenthood – the importance of understanding the facts about egg and embryo freezing
About the author
Connie is a Senior Associate in the family team and has experience of dealing with all aspects of private family work relating to both finances and children. Connie has expertise in cases involving: international elements such as relocation and cross-border disputes; international surrogacy; arrangements for children; company and/or trust assets; pre and post nuptial agreements. Connie is also a qualified mediator and assists as a mediator for clients in respect of all practical and legal issues surrounding family arrangements and divorce.