In these films, people at different stages of their fertility journeys share their advice and suggestions for others experiencing fertility problems or undergoing fertility treatment.
The first film focuses on advice related to preparation and planning for having a child or starting fertility treatment, while the second film includes advice on managing during fertility treatment. Key tips include:
- Don’t wait too long – either before trying to conceive, or seeking help for gynaecological problems
- Become your own expert – learn about infertility and fertility treatment
- Discuss and plan! Think about your budget, your cut-off points, your back-up plans, and balancing fertility treatment with work
- Become your own advocate
- Have realistic expectations
- Maintain other interests
- Create a support network
- Look after your mental health and your relationship if you have a partner
Advice about planning and preparing for fertility treatment
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Sarah, a solo mum by choice, advises other people thinking of having children not to wait too long before having their fertility checked, especially if they have problems with their periods.
If you are thinking of having children, I always say, “Don’t delay. Go and see your doctor. Find out what your fertility is like and if anything’s wrong with your body, try and get it sorted out.” Because even if I hadn’t gone that day I felt that random pain, if I had just ignored it, I don’t know what would have happened. It could have been even worse.
So I always say, “Don’t ignore your body. Trust your body. If you don’t feel something is right, go and see your doctor.” And if you’re thinking of having kids… Because I hear so many people these days going, “Oh, I want kids, but I’m just going to wait”, or “I have really bad periods, but I’m sure they’ll be sorted when I have kids”, and I’m always like, “No, just go and see your doctor and find out,” because I just don’t want anyone to miss their chance.
Elena has one child via IVF. She emphasizes the importance of becoming your own expert, being wary of misinformation, and getting a ‘bespoke quote’ for treatment.
For women that are starting the journey, become your own expert, read, read, read around fertility and what works and what doesn’t. You get told a lot of misinformation through this journey and it’s very expensive and it’s full of heartache. You’ve got to prepare yourself emotionally, it is the biggest emotional rollercoaster that you can ever experience.
My big tip would be to make sure you get a bespoke quote before you start IVF. I was told so much misinformation, I had about $10,000 worth of additional costs land on my feet that were never broached with me. Fortunately I had an email outlining the costs that I could refer back to. My request for a one-page bespoke quote, like you do with any works for your home, never materialized but I had this email and that saved me $7,000 to $10,000, so do that.
Ruby has had two children via IVF with her partner, a cisgender woman. She recommends others contemplating fertility treatment have a clear plan, think about the impact on work, and to be patient.
Top tips? As I was told, it takes a very long time and there are a lot of steps along the way that require thought and discussion. I think just to really be clear on when you want to achieve something by and give it a lot of thought and a lot of discussions.
And I think having a good plan with how you’ll manage it with work practically, whether you need to tell them or not, but just to have that time to be able to do the process is really valuable. It’s already stressful. You don’t need to be worrying about what your employer thinks.
And I think you have to be quite patient and try not to get ahead of yourself because it’s very hard to fall pregnant, I think, when you’re going through IVF. I think that’s the bottom line, is that it’s not an easy road and the reason people are going for fertility treatments is they’ve struggled… It’s easier said than done but you have to try to take each moment as you can and not get too far ahead of yourself and therefore not put too much hope in unrealistic expectations of yourself.
IVF has not yet been successful for Hannah. She suggests having realistic expectations about fertility treatment, a ‘plan B’ for if it doesn’t work, and interests and activities outside of IVF.
My advice is always have a plan B, that is what one of the counsellors always told me. Plan B, so if this cycle is unsuccessful, or if it’s cancelled, or – what is the next step? So there’s less chance you’ll fall down in a heap, and not know where to turn to next. Well, if it doesn’t work out, we will look at donor eggs, or other possibilities. If this doesn’t go to plan, then have a backup plan.
Talking to someone who is going through it, it’s sometimes easier to talk to a stranger than a close family member. I wish women would know that IVF doesn’t work for everyone. Unfortunately, it’s not successful for some people.
Have an escape – travel, read or exercise, because you need things to take your mind off the pressures and stress of it all.
Women need to know to start having a family earlier, and to be educated about that, because like I said, a miscarriage can add time and time and time, and stress, and months on to the whole rollercoaster ride. The celebrities who are having babies, you don’t really know how many times they’ve tried before that point, and the hell that they’ve been through to get to that point. In fact, anyone who does get to the point of having IVF, or starting IVF, has more than likely had a horrendous journey to get to that point.
No-one has it all, no-one has a fantastic career, life, house, the family that’s just perfectly behaved, and come at the drop of a hat, and come easily. Everyone’s juggling a lot of issues. But also, the women you see with fantastic careers, they quite often have – the downside is, they don’t see their children much, or they’re – in normal times – flying around the world on corporate trips. You know, there’s always a price to pay for everything. But we, in Australia, are led to believe that – and what you see in the media, that women have everything. I’m yet to believe, and yet to see someone who has it all. They appear they have it all, and Instagram is a big pain for that – is an incorrect conception. People look like they have it all, but they don’t.
Libby suggests being open to different options for parenthood, and says that each person will make the decisions that are best for them as they go along.
I think it’s ‘follow your heart’ basically. I think it’s – whatever decision you take it’s the best decision at that time and if the outcome is not, you can decide to try more or not. And I believe that you can get a child in different ways, not necessarily having sex and having a child. So, I would say that there are ways if you’re open, I think they should be open to options and parenthood, it’s very different than maybe it was 100 years ago.
Advice about going through fertility treatment
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Megan urges others going through IVF to be your own advocate, and to trust that you have the strength and resilience you need.
For anyone going through IVF, or any kind of fertility treatment, I think the thing that I learnt and has been most valuable to me has been you always have to be your own advocate. The clinics and your specialists will probably do everything they can to look after you, and provide you with everything you need; but they are looking after hundreds, if not thousands, of people like you, and they can’t possibly remember every detail about your case, and everything you need; so you mustn’t ever be afraid to ask for more information, ask them to tell you again what the drug is, and how to take it, to double-check a piece of information you’re not sure about.
I think it’s very easy to feel like IVF is something that’s happening to you, not something that you are doing; but ultimately it’s something that you’ve chosen to do, and something that you’re paying for, and they are there to support you. That’s not the other way around. So you must never be afraid to ask for what you need, and to be your own advocate, to stand up for yourself.
The other thing that I would say is it’s very easy in the beginning, I know, to feel like this is an impossible thing, and whether it’s taking injections, or remembering all your medications, or if you’re afraid of anesthetics, and egg collection, and surgery, it can feel like this big, overwhelming, impossible thing; and the thing that I have found amazing is that somehow you’ll always find the strength and the resilience you need to do whatever is asked of you. It doesn’t always feel like that’s possible, but it is. IVF is not impossible, and injections are not impossible, and you will be amazed at the skills you acquire in this process.
Tallace recommends self-care such as massages and acupuncture to help take off a bit of the ‘pressure’ on yourself while going through fertility treatment.
Even though it was an extra expense and another appointment to keep, going to acupuncture, and getting massages, and things like that were just really valuable elements of the self-care that I was able to do.
It did help. There’s so much pressure when you’re going through fertility treatment, to be calm. You know, not to be anxious. [laughter] And it’s really hard to achieve, so anything you can do to help yourself in that regard, I think is good. Besides just taking the pressure off, because people do get pregnant in warzones, so it can’t be the be-all and end-all, to be completely Zen. Yeah, so I guess just trying to take the pressure off yourself a bit, in any way you can, is good.
Sue has two children, one conceived via home insemination and one via IVF. She advises others going through fertility treatment to ‘keep trying’ but recognizes everyone’s situation is different.
I’d tell anybody just to keep trying. You do have to be realistic about how much time and energy you put into it. I think everybody is different though.
Everybody has different cut-off points. I mean, some people that I know that have been through IVF found it really, really played with them emotionally and physically, whereas I didn’t have problems in that area. So it was all right for me to say, “Just keep trying,” because apart from the financial side, it doesn’t really play havoc on you physically. It’s emotionally you have to deal with not being successful. But you have to deal with it emotionally anyway.
Georgia is about to start IVF after unsuccessfully trying ovulation induction. She emphasizes the importance of having a support network and looking after your mental health and your relationship.
Not doing this alone is just so important and making sure that you have a support system around you, whether that be your family, friends or your partner that you’re doing this with. Talking about it is going to make things better. Although forums didn’t work for me, just to see the amount that this affects other people just blew my mind, and I wish I knew earlier, how this is going to affect people, and how many people it affects. It’s just so big.
Yeah, so looking for that support, and taking time out for your mental health, for you and your partner, is really, really important. You know, we became extremely obsessive, and it did affect the relationship. So, having that time to… It’s something that you really want, and I completely understand… It’s something that I really want, but I also need to look at myself, and know that we needed to take time and stop trying. Even if it’s for a month, because those months go very, very quickly. You need that time away, to reset. Reset your lives, reset your relationship, and let’s start again, and we’ll start trying; but you need that downtime to make things work.
Jacinta encourages others not to feel ashamed about infertility or fertility treatment and says talking about it may help you find support from other people with similar experiences.
So my biggest advice, and I’ve spoken to a lot of women now that are going through fertility treatment, is to just talk about it. I think there seems to be still a lot of shame or stigma or something around infertility and I think, this is no fault of your own. No one does anything to end up not being able to have a baby. People keeping quiet about it, I think it kind of perpetuates that feeling of shame even more. We’ve always been very – we decided to go very public with our story and it’s offered me so much support along the way, so I really encourage other people to do that as well.
Also, to just – and by doing that, you find other women that are going through the same thing and I think that’s one of the biggest supports for me, has been finding other people that are going through IVF or different fertility treatments and kind of being able to cling on to each other and share those experiences has been really, really important and valuable for me.