Aside from the general anxiety that many people are experiencing, these are stressful times for fertility patients, especially for those who have had their treatment paused or cancelled. 

We are living in the strangest of times.  Told to keep our distance from those we love but don’t share a home with as well as to stay away from our colleagues and friends.  Told not to leave home unless it is for a very short list of reasons.  Our minds are full of anxiety, not just for family but also for jobs, for our futures…

Donor conception may seem to come rather low on the list of things to worry about at the moment and if you are a parent and have already started talking to your children about how they were conceived, this is likely to be true.  But if part of the future that is currently being put on hold includes plans for donor conception procedures either in the UK or abroad, you may be distraught that your hopes for a family are being delayed to an uncertain date in the future. 

The HFEA have told all UK fertility clinics to complete the treatment cycles for those women currently mid-treatment but to put on hold for three weeks the start of any further cycles of treatment.  Chair of the HFEA Sally Cheshire, an ex fertility patient herself, has written an open letter to those hoping to cycle soon, saying how sorry she is that this has had to happen but that the decision has been taken on scientific advice. 

Those of you planning to go abroad will almost certainly have received similar information from your clinics, plus most international flights are cancelled including Spain (at the time of writing), a popular destination for UK patients.

Here at DCN we absolutely understand the devastation some of you may be feeling.  There is nothing we can do to alter the circumstances under which we are all having to live at the moment but we can offer tips, some general and some specific to DC, that might support you through these difficult times and help prepare you for parenting by donor conception.

  • Try to stay in the moment, living neither in the past or the future.  It’s not easy to achieve but worth the effort and can stop the endless ‘what ifs’ (what if I’d made up my mind and done that cycle last year) or catastrophising (we’ll never have a family now).  We know it sounds boring, but slow, deep breathing really can help when you are feeling anxious and upset.
  • If you feel sad, angry or anything else, let yourself feel the depth of that feeling.  Do whatever is necessary to allow the feeling to come out.  You may be exhausted afterwards but you will feel better.
  • Ideally talk with someone who is likely to be able to listen to you without judgement.  Everyone is having to deal with difficult stuff at the moment but just having someone listen to what is important for you right now can be very helpful.
  • When you are feeling calmer and hopefully more positive, think how you can use this extra time to help prepare yourself to be a parent by donor conception.  Naturally your focus has been on your infertility or reason for using DC (either with or without a partner) and ways in which it might be possible to have your dream of a family come true.  You really, really want a baby.  But the majority of your relationship with that person will be with them as an older child, teenager or adult.  Now could be the time to think about what that relationship might be like.  What decisions can you take now that will help strengthen that relationship in the future?
  • You might want to talk with your partner (if you have one) or a close friend about what having a child by donor conception means to you.   How do you think it’s different to other families and how is it similar?
  • Get reading! Given all the time you are spending at home why not invest in some research and education on the social and emotional aspects of donor conception. Look out for the Friday DCN bulletins with links to interesting articles and podcasts. Have a look at the DCN bookshop and our resource list on the website for some great suggestions of books that might really help with decision-making, building confidence and answering questions about family life.

We always recommend thinking things through as much as possible before a child is conceived. This period of downtime could give you space to explore any issues that concern you. It could also provide an opportunity to see if there are things you hadn’t even thought about yet (and might need to!).  Remember that DC Network is here to support and help you in thinking about them all, no matter where your starting point is. 

We hope very much that you will be able to resume your journey to a family later in the year when this Covid 19 crisis has passed.  In the meantime be kind to yourself and others around you, make good use of this extra preparation time if you can…and know that DC Network is here for you.

3rd April 2020