The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) provides a regulatory framework around assisted conception. As part of that, all clinics licensed by the HFEA are required to provide mandatory counselling for anyone using donor conception. This session will hopefully be with a BICA Accredited Counsellor. (You can check this with your clinic) The purpose of having the session is to ensure there’s an opportunity to discuss the implications of our conception decisions and the impact of treatment.
When choosing a clinic for treatment, you can ask for more information about the donor conception counselling provided as it does differ per clinic.
I get many ladies contacting me, feeling anxious or unclear about the session and what it entails. Many think of it almost as a test that needs to be passed to ensure they are fit to be a solo mum. Rather than an opportunity to discuss the implications of donor conception.
For this reason, the sessions themselves are not always as useful as they could be. The real topics on people’s mind such as embracing the decision to start this journey without a partner and how they will cope parenting solo, are not always discussed. This is for fear it might show them in a bad light.
Many women have shared that they have hugely benefited from the session. There is however definitely an opportunity to ensure that more women get a great experience from this counselling. It seems such a shame that it isn’t always fully utilised.
What will be covered in the counselling?
The counselling should cover the implications of donor conception and using a sperm donor. It is common to discuss any of the following:
- Letting go of the idea of having a baby in a romantic partnership
- Creating a support network
- Using donor sperm to conceive and the implications of that choice
- Talking to your child about their conception
- Impact to your future child of being donor conceived
- Explaining your story to others
- Anxieties around any element of solo motherhood
- Anything else that is on your mind about your situation
How do I get the most out of my session?
1) Prepare the topics you want to cover
Before you go for the session, have a think through about any areas that you’d like to cover. The more prepared you are the better use of the time you can make. Don’t feel worried about covering whatever is on your mind. That’s what the session is there for. There are no stupid questions or topics.
2) Be honest
If you’re not honest in the session you won’t get the most out of it. No counsellor will judge you for having the common anxieties around this process. It is a big decision and one that you can really benefit from talking through.
All clinic staff, including counsellors, have a professional duty to share information if they have concerns that a potential child may be at risk of harm. This would only happen if there are concerns that a child might come to ‘significant harm’, or if there are doubts about your ability to provide ‘supportive parenting’. The counsellor will explain this at the first counselling session. This in no way means that you should not utilise the opportunity to talk through what is on your mind.
If there are still things you would like to discuss following your counselling session, you can always organise another session with a BICA Accredited counsellor or a session with a Social Infertility Coach.