After struggling alone for many years with infertility, Nelson resident Misha Graves has founded a support group for local women facing difficulties with natural conception.
Beginning in July, the Nelson Infertility Support Group will meet on the last Wednesday of every month from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Kalein Hospice Centre on 402 West Richards Street in Nelson.
“This will be a mutual self-help group, as opposed to a therapy group, and the discussion format, as well as the agenda of topics, will be determined by the unique needs of the members,” said Graves.
According to a recent study, infertility rates among Canadian couples are on the rise. It is estimated that nearly one in six couples is currently experiencing infertility. Despite its growing prevalence, the majority of those who suffer from infertility hide their struggle. Experts in the field of reproductive health contend that it is most often a person’s fear of judgment, feelings of shame, and perceived social stigma that lie at the root of their silence.
The loss experienced from infertility is far reaching: loss of positive sexual identity, loss of control over one’s body, loss of a normal sexual relationship, loss of pregnancy and birth experience, and loss of genetic legacy. Further, the grief experienced as a result of infertility is chronic by its very nature, yet is generally not recognized as such in our society, leaving many without the resources and support to work through their grief.
Online support forums have become a safe haven for many women experiencing infertility. However, these forums often create a false sense of connection, and can have the unintentional consequence of increased isolation.
Alternatively, a local support group can provide a safe place to express and explore the emotional pain and frustrations associated with infertility, as well as create an opportunity to form connections based on mutual experience, without the constraints of traditional expert/patient relationships, and without the barrier of a computer screen.
According to national prevalence rates, approximately 4,200 women in the West Kootenay region will struggle with infertility during their reproductive years. This number is comparable to the 1 in 10 women who will survive a battle with breast cancer. Yet there are 250 breast cancer support groups currently active across Canada, and only 34 infertility support groups. Infertility is not cancer, but it can have devastating consequences, and greater awareness among the general population is needed to help prevent more women from suffering in silence.
“My ability to cope with my own infertility is in large part due to the women who have had the courage to speak out about theirs,” said Graves. “And my wish is to not only establish a lasting resource in this community, but to start a dialogue that might help to increase understanding, encourage further advocacy efforts, and help women and men feel empowered to find strength, not shame, in their own stories of infertility.”
The Nelson Infertility Support Group is an affiliate of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada. Meetings are free and open to all who are facing infertility, secondary infertility, assisted conception, and/or recurrent pregnancy loss.
More information can be found on the group’s website here.