Healthwatch Essex has published a book and short film series of people’s stories of fertility and baby loss, as part of a project named “Happiness, Heartbreak & Hope: Experiences of Fertility in Essex”.
The project began in May 2022 with the charity speaking to families and individuals who have a wide variety of different experiences of fertility. The primary aim of the piece of work was to raise awareness of different fertility experiences ranging from IVF to surrogacy and including baby loss – giving a voice to topics and issues which are not always made so visible.
The project explores 13 people’s stories through interview-based study investigating themes of stigma, mental health, self-perception and support and advice. The work also encompassed identifying what is working well and what could be improved within services across Essex throughout the fertility journey.
Healthwatch Essex spoke with people who completed their fertility journey with their desired outcome as well as families who unfortunately did not. The study included speaking to females who live with conditions that could affect fertility, including Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, as well as men and same sex couples, to ensure it was fully representative of all family types and people’s different journeys to parenthood. The stories throughout the book and films explore how the journey impacts the way people view themselves as ‘male’ and ‘female’ in relation to parenthood and the impact it may have on other factors, including on relationships and further treatment.
Participants from across Essex, including Braintree, Billericay, London, Tendring, Basildon and Epping took part in the project; including heterosexual couples, same sex couples and a single gay man who experienced having children through surrogacy.
Samantha Glover, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Essex, said: “Fertility journeys can be complex and sometimes difficult experiences for many people and there are such a wide variety of different stories out there – all with different issues, themes and experiences running through them.
“We undertook this project with the hope that capturing these stories would help those working across fertility and maternity services in Essex to understand all that is good about their work as well as the areas where the people we’ve spoken to hoped that improvements could be made. We also hope more broadly that this will be a useful resource in a wide range of other environments, including educational institutions and other charities.
“We also hope to now share those stories more broadly given how many participants spoke of the value of connecting with and hearing stories from others who had been in a similar situation. We hope that the book, films and podcast will go some way to supporting people on their fertility journey, with all of the variations and unique intricacies that might involve.”
During the project, Healthwatch Essex also produced a podcast with Lindsay Oliver, from Aching Arms who, during Baby Loss Awareness Week, shared her experience of losing her son, Henry, shortly after birth. Lindsay’s podcast can be found here.
Staff in the Healthwatch Essex Information and Guidance Service are there to help people access, understand and navigate health, social care and wellbeing services in Essex. If you would like to get in touch for support, advice or to provide feedback on services, please call us on 0300 500 1895, text on 07712 395398 or email [email protected] during office hours.