A new UK study urges healthcare professionals to appreciate the psychological maelstrom that accompanies infertility.
As discussed in the journal The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (TOG), researchers explain that infertility is a complex state and life crisis and much more than a biological malfunction.
Authors advise the medical community to understand the psychological anguish and to not neglect the emotional impact of involuntary childlessness.
The article provides an introduction to infertility counselling in the UK within the context of fertility treatment and a nationalized health system. This includes an explanation of the differences between the three main types of counselling, implications, support, and therapeutic counselling, and the role of various National associations and organizations.
In the UK, counselling plays a major complementary role in providing holistic patient-centered care by multidisciplinary staff in fertility clinics.
Authors explain that counselling is an amalgam of medicine and mental health. They believe the intervention should be viewed as a continuation of the medical process, where the medical and psychological aspects of infertility treatment are integrated.
At present, the counselling role occupies a unique and diverse position within the infertility field, including that of patient advocate, gatekeeper, researcher, educator, supportive resource to colleagues, confidante, and point of liaison.
The authors acknowledge that as reproductive laws continue to develop, they will influence the role of the counselling provider. However, whatever the extent of these changes, counselling practitioners must continue to work within the boundaries of acceptable practice as outlined by their professional body.
Infertility counseling is a specialized field demanding the professional receive continuous training and professional development. The article summarizes the often complex assisted reproductive technology (ART) options for infertile patients, including gamete/embryo donation, egg/sperm sharing, surrogacy, adoption, and fertility preservation.
It also explores the under-recognized and unregulated phenomenon of fertility tourism, including the current legal and regulatory parameter regarding these options. Authors also review important considerations — such as the welfare of the child or children when surrogacy and adoption are considered options.
Counselling practitioners play a critical role in explaining some or all of these options to patients and in ensuring that they are well informed before making any treatment choices, conclude the authors.
Jolly Joy, Consultant Gynaecologist and Subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine, Origin Fertility Care in Belfast and co-author of the article says: “It is vital that clinicians focus on the changing psychosocial needs of their patients, as well as on the advances in infertility treatment, if they are going to fully meet the needs of people affected by infertility.”
Jason Waugh, TOG Editor-in-chief adds: “It is important that all the interested statutory and professional bodies that produce guidelines on standards of multidisciplinary practice within the field of infertility continue to communicate with each other.
This will help achieve the best standards of practice. It will also have a positive and active influence on the growing global nature of infertility counselling and treatment.”