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Ticking Clock Irish fertility counsellor says women embarking on IVF need to be kind to themselves

One in five couples in Ireland seek help with having a baby as success rates in recent years for IVF have rocketed, but it can be an emotionally turbulent time or women and their partners


Helga Behan.

Helga Behan.

Helga Behan.

IT can as simple as a stack of those children’s red and white Ikea chairs or putting washing on the line – with no baby grows - but the longing for a baby can be overwhelming.

Helga Behan teaches women embarking on fertility treatment to be kind to themselves.

Might sound simple, but she tells Magazine+ sometimes women blame their bodies for failing to give them a baby.

Couples who find themselves in a fertility clinic are often excited about the future and the prospect of a that longed for positive test but preparing for some failure is important.

The Dubliner who qualified from Trinity College and has worked with couples for more than a decade in SIMS IVF says: “I ensure people are in the best possible place for treatment.”

Desperate for a child, it is normal to feel isolated and like you are hurtling into the unknown because family and friends don’t know how it feels, unless they’ve been through it.

“I go through feelings of bereavement with couples and a loss, if a cycle hasn’t worked, and they are disappointed. I want to help couples without frightening them.

“If a cycle of IVF doesn’t work, it’s a loss and sometimes it can bring up the loss of a loved one in the past and this can be so upsetting for people because they don’t understand why a past bereavement comes up but that’s common for any loss to bring up an old one.”


Fertility treatment can be a trying process for couples.

Fertility treatment can be a trying process for couples.

Fertility treatment can be a trying process for couples.

Helga, a founding member of IFCA (Irish Fertility Counsellors Association), encourages patients to exercise, meditate and listen to music to promote feelings of calm.

“Some women blame their bodies for failing them, so they almost cut the head offs from their body in their minds, but they don’t know that the body is made to reproduce and it is doing everything in its power to do that so that can be hard.

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“It is having a little empathy for the body and to make it all the one person as such, if you get me.”

Men too can often be forgotten or left out of the process for lots of reasons – culturally and medically.


Success rates have rocketed in recent years for IVF.

Success rates have rocketed in recent years for IVF.

Success rates have rocketed in recent years for IVF.

“The husband can feel left out and guilty because she has to do all the work after the sperm donation and that can really kick in if it is male factor (male infertility) so the women might not even know he feels that and she think she is on her own.

“It is just really for me to help them meet in the middle and get them to move forward, to each say what they need, that’s so important. Talking it through and saying what you need and what will make you feel better. Once that is clear people can do so well couples work together.”

Financial stress and a feeling of failure Is something Helga teaches people to deal with steadily and that sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

“There is an empty hole of not having a child if that’s what it comes to, so there is a hole so we want that hole to be smaller but it won’t go away so we have to figure out how to keep that hole small and that’s where I come in.”

Success rates have rocketed in recent years for IVF. One in five couples seek help in Ireland with having a baby – with one in seven couples worldwide looking to science.

“I am here to listen. I tell women they don’t have to tell everyone what they are going through and in work if you don’t want to say it, just say you have gynaecological appointments.

“Everybody is different but it’s your way and you go with that when it comes to who you tell.

“People often say things about easy it is easy for them to get pregnant and that can be hurtful. Irish culture too is all about family and babies, while some couples just stop going to weddings and christenings for a while. Just be mindful of what you say to people.”

Helga encourage patients to be as healthy as possible with plenty of fresh vegetables, folic acid and exercise during treatment. She says that you know your own body and if you think you would regret any party, any holiday or any exercise plan then just don’t do it to yourself.

“I say to them, if the cycle didn’t work would you blame it? Maybe medically they might say it is fine but don’t do anything if you question how wise it is.

“Have as many little regrets as you can. Someday you will look back and think we did everything we could and that’s the best feeling and experience to have, no regrets.”

There’s nothing worse than everyone telling you to relax but SIMS IVF offers counselling to couples in the hope that can happen.

  • The Ticking Clock is a fertility series celebrates the miracle of modern medicine with touching real-life stories, video content and expert advice online and in print each week

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