Toolkit

Support Groups

Posted by Juno on May 31, 2011



I know how many people in despair hit rock bottom and feel they can’t go on.  I’m lucky that my fertility clinic offered a support group.  At first, I was reluctant, afraid I’d hear horror stories that would cause me even more anxiety than I already had about undergoing IVF.  But I eventually signed up and found that instead of anxiety-producing the group was deeply comforting.  To be with other women going through the same pain and feelings, was a godsend.  If you’re looking for a support group, check out Resolve’s website.  They have groups across the country:  http://www.resolve.org/support-and-services/support-group/support-groups-list.html

And beyond bonding, support groups have been shows to dramatically improve success.  Alice Domar, director of Women’s Health Services at Harvard Medical School, has done fascinating studies on how women in support groups actually have a higher success rate than women who go it alone. 

                 Alice D. Domar, Ph.D.
The Mind Body Centre for Women's Health at Boston IVF:
Mind/body treatment of infertility patients has been shown to both increase pregnancy rates as well as reducing psychological distress. In a recent study conducted at the MBMI, 185 women who had been trying to conceive for one to two years were randomized into either a 10 week mind/body group, a ten week support group, or a routine care control group. The birth rates during the one year follow up period were as follows: - Mind/body 55%, support 54%, and controls 20%. In addition the mind/body patients reported significantly greater psychological improvements than the support or control patients. Patients in the clinical Mind/Body Program for Infertility show benefits as well; in four published studies on several hundred women with an infertility duration of 3.5 years, 42 percent conceived within six months of completing the program and there were significant decreases in all measured psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety and anger.
                1. Domar, A., Clapp, D., Slawsby, E., Dusek, J., Kessel, B., Freizinger, M (2000) Impact of group psychological interventions on pregnancy rates in infertile women. Fertility and Sterility Vol. 73, no.4 April)

I also recommend Domar’s book Healing Mind, Healthy Woman.

By the time the support group ended after 10 short weeks, the vast majority of women had gotten pregnant.  I was not one of them.  Four of us out of the initial 15 had not yet had success.  That was tough but the four of us started our own mini-group and I continued to be in touch with the other women, all of whom were supportive and helpful.   But it was then I realized that I had to find something to give my life meaning, even if I never had children.  I tried everything I thought could help.  I volunteered to play with homeless children at a shelter a couple hours a week. My husband and I went to a therapist who specialized in grief counseling.  I practiced cognitive restructuring to get out of my mental sinkhole.  And I had phone consultations with Julia Indichova about what was at the root of this deep crisis. 

By the time I did my fourth and final IVF, I had mentally turned a corner and was feeling as though the path to children was open for me.  I didn’t know how I would get there but I knew I would somehow become a parent.  I don’t think I could have made it there mentally had I not had the benefit of a support group.