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Infertility causes great personal suffering and distress. Most of this is hidden from the public gaze, and this is why it is still not talked about openly. The reasons for the lack of public support for the infertile couple include: the dismal ignorance about the causes of infertility and its treatment; and the failure of infertile couples to make their problems (and the solutions to them) known to the public, because of their low self-esteem and reluctance to talk about their problems, thus making this a vicious cycle.
Infertile couples are socially isolated and emotionally very vulnerable. They need a place where they can get together and talk to people in the same boat as themselves, to help them tide over this crisis in their life. After all, if infertile patients will not look after their own interests, then who will?
Infertility Friends is India's first support group for infertile couples. This is a non-profit registered charitable trust for infertile couples, where they can get together and discuss their problems. In order to facilitate this process, the Patient Education Library has over 30 videos, 50 books and 100 brochures on infertility, which help patients to learn more about their problems.
Its mission is to provide compassionate and informed help to people experiencing the crisis of infertility ; and to increase visibility about infertility issues by public education. Its goals include: providing indepth, reliable medical information which encourages people to make informed decisions on options and treatment; encouraging patient self-education resulting in a stronger doctor-patient relationship; and offering emotional support services to reduce anxiety and help restore feelings of control, self-worth and optimism.
How does a support group help ? No one understands infertility as well as someone who has been there. However, finding another couple experiencing the same problem can be difficult. Infertile people simply have no way of finding one another without help - and this is where support groups can help. Contact with other infertile couples is one of the best ways to break through the isolation and despair of the infertility experience. You realise that "you are not alone" . By joining a support group you learn that there are others who can understand the devastation of a failed cycle or the jealousy of a friend's pregnancy. The craziness of scheduled sex, the exhaustion of endless medical treatments and the agony of family gatherings are all well known in a support group.
The best help is self-help; and an additional bonus many people find is that by helping other infertile couples in their time of need, they learn to help themselves ! Being able to ventilate your feelings and to get emotional support can be a healing experience.
The internet has also become a very valuable source of emotional support, and you'll find many online communities of infertile couples, who network with each other, and provide much needed support and practical information. These cyberspace support groups allow you to communicate with dozens of other infertile couples from all over the world ! The Internet provides a safe cloak of anonymity, so you never need to reveal your identity. A good example of such a support group, which uses bulletin boards to allow couples to "talk" to each other is at http://www.fertilethoughts.net/. You can post your message online, read about other's problems - and offer advise as well !
Unfortunately, misconceptions about support groups prevent many people from making use of this valuable help.
Some are concerned that joining might cause them to dwell even more on the infertility. But the reality is that infertility can pervade every aspect of your life and obsession with getting pregnant will occur whether or not you join a group. Trying to shut out painful feelings will only make them worse.
Others may feel that infertility is too private or personal or traumatic to share with a group of strangers. You may also believe that you should be able to handle this on your own. In truth, infertility is too traumatic not to share with others, and there is nothing wrong or weak about reaching out for help. A support group simply provides a safe, warm supportive environment - you need never say a word if you don't want to.
Another reason for not joining a group is concern that it promotes a feeling of futility. The perception may be that a group is only for those who have hit bottom or are without hope. This is far from the truth - and in fact, many support group members have ended up with successful pregnancies thanks to the information they obtained from the support group's library.
It's easy to believe that nothing except a successful pregnancy will make any difference in coping with infertility - but that's not true. Joining a support group may be just what you need to find crucial information or to deal with the devastating feelings that accompany being infertile. Joining may be frightening - but it's well worth the risk. You do not have to struggle alone.
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