Support groups have been around a long time- Alcoholics Anonymous- perhaps the best known of the groups, has existed for 83 years. Moreover, they’re everywhere- a recent google search of support groups in South Australia delivered 167,000,000 results.
The support group is a strange beast- what was once a face to face meeting facilitated by a professional not necessarily experiencing the concerns of the group members, is morphing. The transformation from a personal connection to one online comes with both advantages and disadvantages. The ability to bond over a shared experience, to receive empathy as very private details of lives are discussed, means that those who may not have otherwise sought face to face help may now find the support they need. Fertility is not often an issue discussed with family and friends, and the online group can remove the exhaustion of vulnerability with the bonus of anonymity. So unlike many support groups for dependence, there is no requirement for a pattern or habit of commitment in a fertility based group- those with the need for support can drop in and out as they wish.
However, some of these groups are better than others, and how does one know whether a group will be helpful before they delve into sharing?
A great Fertility Support Group:
• has an active and fair facilitator who doesn’t dominate the conversation with their own opinions
• includes members that have moved beyond a state of anxiety to a successful outcome to provide perspective
• discusses the most superficial to most massive issues
• does not ridicule members for their views
• outlines unambiguous rules and guidelines regarding behaviour and expectations, including potentially opprobrious comments
• uses honesty and empathy without judgement to form the basis for discussion
• is balanced- not always woe is me or fearful
• contains positive stories to give inspiration and hope- not jealousy
• respects confidentiality
How to benefit from a Fertility Support Group:
• ensure it works for you and you are growing and developing because of it
• if the group is bringing you down, leave
• be open to trying some of the coping mechanisms suggested by others
• don’t let the group become a habit that you lean on instead of taking affirmative action for yourself
• share your solutions as well as your problems
• be honest
• don’t expect instant gratification or feel down when responses aren’t immediate
• challenge yourself to use some of the coping techniques shared by others
• remember to use other resources available to you- your clinic counsellor, for example
Finally, remember that just because something worked for someone else, it won’t necessarily work for you- your online searches aren’t the same as your Fertility Specialist’s years of training and experience across a broad spectrum of patients. Go to your Specialist with questions; the right Specialist will have an excellent rationale for why they’ve gone down a particular treatment continuum.