Thursday, June 20, 2024

Compassionate closure for those who are unable to fulfil hopes and expectations of fertility treatment

MANILA, Philippines, May 24, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Compassionate closure is a vital aspect of the holistic care of millions of people each year who are left with lost hopes and dreams of parenthood after assisted conception.

In the dynamic and rapidly expanding field of assisted reproductive technology, the reality of treatment failure is often suppressed with highly emotional and lasting psychological consequences.

In the Philippines today, a global conference on reproductive health heard of the growing need to integrate psychosocial support in the scientific and clinical delivery of fertility treatment for people who are struggling to conceive.

Speaking at the 2024 Congress of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE) in Manila, leading Australian fertility counsellor, Ms Rebecca Kerner, said an increasing number of individuals and couples were accessing fertility treatment because they were unable to create their longed-for families without assistance.

“Yet, in spite of remarkable advances in reproductive technology and increasing treatment options and add-ons, the current world-wide chances of success in being able to take home a baby can be less than thirty per cent per cycle,” she said.

“So, it is important that people seeking assisted reproduction are engaged in early conversations with their specialist providers about treatment uncertainties, including the very real possibility of failure.”

This is an important role of fertility counsellors, particularly those providing support for couples who are struggling in their treatment journeys, those with guarded reproductive prognoses, or those who have had unsuccessful treatment cycles.

Ms Kerner is Chair of the ASPIRE Special Interest Group of Psychology and Counselling and President of the Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association.

She said helping patients to have compassionate closure in treatment should begin not at the end of the program, but early in the course of treatment – particularly for those with a guarded prognosis.

“It is the role and responsibility of providers in assisted reproductive technology – scientists, clinicians, nurses, counsellors and administration staff – to initiate these early conversations about treatment uncertainties, including the possibility of failure,” she explained.

“It is important to be transparent in providing accurate statistics about the realities of success based on each individual or couple’s specific circumstances.

“The emphasis needs to be on patient centred approaches that prioritise empathy, honesty and shared decision making. It draws on the commitment of fertility clinics to recognise that end of treatment decision making is multi-faceted, often requiring time and space for respite and reflection.

“Psychosocial specialists, including those in the involuntary childless community, can provide coping options for patients to help them build resilience as they navigate treatment outcomes, including potential loss and grief. The focus should move away from clinical outcomes to how we take care of patients across their whole journey.

“With appropriate holistic care, patients who will never take home the babies they long for will not be deemed as failing. They can have successful outcomes in terms of appropriate support and guidance in their grief and loss to find meaningful and satisfying lives in different ways.”

Such patients are often very grateful to their clinics for providing care that may be unsuccessful, but they are able to live the rest of their lives with a sense of acceptance and peace of mind.

Singapore-based psychologist and fertility counsellor, Tanja Faessler-Moro, also addressed the ASPIRE Congress on the importance of patient centred care in assisted reproduction

“Individuals and couples are often experiencing a mental and emotional rollercoaster when going through fertility treatment, and they want to feel safe and acknowledged when going through their journey,” Tanja explained.

“This is why it is essential for counselling to be integrated into every reproductive treatment clinic, not only for the benefit of patients, but the whole health care team involved.”

ASPIRE is a unique task force of clinicians and scientists involved in the management of fertility and assisted reproductive technology (ART). It represents over twenty countries throughout the Asia Pacific region, and it is dedicated to improving knowledge and awareness of fertility issues.

The ASPIRE Congress is being held at the Philippine International Convention Centre in Manila from 23 to 26 May. For further information, go to the Congress website www.aspire2024.com

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