How it All Began
I started the Fertility Group Hull & East Riding in March 2017. I’d just moved back to Hull after living in London for almost 6 years. I had gone to London as a student of Anthropology at University College London, where I quickly became fascinated with one very niche area of my chosen discipline: Reproductive Technologies. Reading countless ethnographies about infertility around the globe, it struck me that Reproductive Technologies were the perfect lens through which to study society, because technologies such as in vitro fertilisation are adopted in very specific cultural climates, and often embody and reinforce a given society’s unique tapestry of gendered, religious and political values.
Whilst I was revelling in academic obsession, my sister confided in me that she was struggling to conceive. Suddenly, everything that I’d read had real meaning. Going through my sister’s infertility journey with her was more eye-opening than any academic study could have been. So after graduating, I made it my mission to work at a fertility clinic and play a role in improving patient information and care. I spoke to hundreds of patients in my time at the clinic, and even though I started to see marked improvements in the experiences these patients were having, I still felt that this was a wider societal issue.
Fast-forward to March 2017 in Hull. I’d moved back to Yorkshire to be closer to my family and was not surprised to find that there was zero emotional support for people experiencing fertility issues in the region. So, with a makeshift website and some flyers, I started the group. It wasn’t long before I was approached by the amazing Kirsty Baker, who volunteered to run the group with me because she had longed for a support group whilst she was undergoing IVF years before.
We’ve just celebrated two years of the group. During that time, many people have nervously stepped through the community centre doors to join our friendly tea-drinking group for a chat. As you’d imagine, there are sometimes tears, but there’s also a lot of laughter as we share experiences.
What’s in Store for the Future
We’ve got an excellent relationship with the Hull IVF clinic, and we’re lucky to have staff regularly join us for Q&A sessions. We’re also affiliated with Fertility Network UK, Hull Voluntary & Community Services, and we’re a Hull 2020 Champion Community Group. But there’s still so much more we could be doing. First and foremost, I’d like to work closer with primary care providers in the area. I’d say that approximately 70% of the people that come to our group fall into the category of ‘pre-treatment’. These are people who are actively trying to conceive, some of which have diagnosed medical conditions and some of whom are seeking or undergoing investigations to determine why conception isn’t happening as they’d expect. Of this group, I can’t recall a single person who has told me that the information they wanted about investigations and treatment options was clear.
Education regarding fertility isn’t exclusive to the GP surgery or the subfertility clinic. Education needs to go beyond, into wider society. Young men and women should be armed with information so they can make healthier choices regarding reproductive health. And finally, I think there needs to be more education in wider society. IVF isn’t a luxury. Nor is it a quick fix. Fertility issues can affect all areas of peoples lives: employment, finances, relationships, and mental and physical health and wellbeing.
How You Can Get Involved
Over the past two years, we’ve steadily seen our membership grow to over 120 members. Everyone’s experiences are so unique, and yet they all share something fundamental: heartache, frustration and loneliness. When people tell us what a difference the group has made to them, they say it’s because they finally realise they are not alone. So, we’re creating a scrapbook and inviting all our members to share their stories and experiences with others. You may wish to tell your story anonymously, describe a specific special experience, or write some kind words of encouragement which will eventually be read by others. We will continue to add to the book so that hopefully everyone who comes to our group will know that they are not alone, and that their emotions are valid. So, if you’d like to help us achieve that, then please Facebook message or email us.
Thank you to all who came to celebrate our 2nd birthday with us. Here’s to many more years of cultivating our special little community.
Founder of Fertility Group Hull & East Riding
Join us for our Fertility, Nutrition and Wellbeing session on Monday 1 st April 18:30-20:00 at Lonsdale Community Centre. Join our Facebook group for full details.