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Your feelings about fertility

Finding out you can’t become pregnant can be very distressing, especially if you want children. Many people have, at some point, imagined what their future family might look like, and for some coming to terms with a different future is not easy.

We understand that you may be completely overwhelmed with different feelings at the moment and want to support you to process them as well as possible. On this page, we talk through some feelings you may experience, some of the reasons why you might feel them, and ways to help you move forward. 

We also have information on:

How does cervical cancer affect fertility?

Some treatments for cervical cancer affect parts of your body needed for pregnancy, including:

  • surgery to remove your cervix (trachelectomy), or your cervix and womb (hysterectomy)
  • radiotherapy or brachytherapy that may stop your ovaries working and damage your womb 
  • chemotherapy that can damage immature eggs in your ovaries.

Read more about treatments for cervical cancer >

While having a trachelectomy means you may still be able to become pregnant, some of these treatments can trigger the menopause. This is when your periods (monthly bleeding) stop and you won’t be able to become pregnant.

Read more about the menopause >  

Managing grief

Although we usually connect loss with someone dying, loss can take many forms. Not being able to have a child or more children is a significant loss and many people take time to grieve.  

Everyone reacts to grief differently and moves through it at their own pace. Give yourself the time you need, without comparing how you feel to others. It’s also important to remember that grief, like many emotions, can express itself in different ways – you may find yourself crying one moment and feeling incredibly angry the next. This is common but can be emotionally exhausting, especially as you try to deal with everything else related to cancer. 

We spoke with other people affected by fertility changes, who shared the following tips.

Learn about the stages of grief

Some people find it useful to understand as much as possible about their situation, as it can help them feel prepared and less alone. The stages of grief describe common feelings you may have after a loss. We talk about some of these stages in this information, and the NHS also have information about the stages. 

Visit the NHS website >

Be kind to yourself

Whatever this means to you, do it. For some people, it means taking care of their body through pampering, whether that’s a long bath or a face mask. For others, it might mean spending some time alone or with an expert, like a counsellor, to care for their mind. Or it could simply mean focusing on a favourite hobby or activity, like painting or gardening. 

Ask for support

Remember, you don’t have to struggle with grief alone. Some people find it helpful to talk with loved ones, while others prefer to talk with a stranger, like a professional counsellor. For other people, the most helpful thing is talking with others who have gone through similar experiences. It may help you feel less alone and lets you get support from a community that truly understands your feelings. 

Managing isolation

Changes to your fertility may leave you feeling alone or isolated in lots of different ways. 

Initially, you may feel isolated from partners, family and friends. As well as processing your own feelings about changes to your fertility, you also have to deal with expectations from partners, family and friends who are processing their feelings about the situation and may not understand how to support you through this. You may feel they are backing away or deciding for you what is or isn’t appropriate without checking.

If family and friends have children or are planning to have them, you may feel that you no longer get to be a part of that group. Again, this may be something you decide for yourself or that you feel has been decided for you by those people. Rather than having control over who you are and how you feel, people may begin to project their feelings and perceptions onto you. For example, you may not be invited to events involving children or be excluded from certain conversations, without someone checking with you first. This means the opportunity for you to see or be with these people changes. While this may be particularly noticeable if your social circle all have children around the same time, it can continue throughout life and hit again if that same circle have grandchildren.  

This isolation may leave you feeling helpless to change the situation. But feeling able to communicate and tell people what you want may help you feel more in control. We have information and tips about having those conversations and dealing with any reactions. 

Read more about talking with partners, family and friends >  

There is also an isolation specific to fertility changes as a result of cancer treatment, particularly where that treatment leaves no chance of becoming pregnant. This certainty can leave you feeling ‘othered’ from traditional sources of fertility support and people who have struggled to get pregnant because you may not have the same strand of hope they have. While this can make it harder to find support, remember we are here for you – whether it’s getting emotional support from our Helpline volunteers or connecting with someone going through the same thing on our online Forum. 

Get support >

Managing fear or uncertainty 

Coming to terms with a different future than one you planned can feel scary. You may be reassessing whether you want a child or more children, as well as how you want to have them. Perhaps you thought you didn’t want a child, but feel differently now, especially if you feel that your choice has been taken away.   

Read more about planning a new future with a partner >

All of these thoughts and possibilities can feel completely overwhelming, and it’s common to feel a mix of them all. Talking things over with someone you trust may help you make sense of your thoughts. Try to take your time until you feel ready to start building a new future that is right for you. 

Read more about alternative ways to have a child >

Reaching a state of acceptance

At the moment, feeling accepting of changes to fertility may seem impossible. But to move forward, it is important to come to terms with the situation you are in – even if that means acknowledging that it hurts and is something you may never feel entirely at peace with. Once you are there, you can move into a place where there are solutions. Reaching this state probably won’t happen overnight. In fact, it may take a lot of time and support to get there.

Read more about managing relationships >

Alternatively, you may immediately feel able to accept not being able to have a child or more children, or you may not have planned to have them. This is a completely valid reaction – there is no right or wrong way to feel. Try not to compare yourself to how others around you, or in the same situation, react.

Read more about life without children >

Other feelings

You may not experience all the feelings we mention here, or you might feel something else entirely. Anything you feel is valid and you deserve to be supported in dealing with it. Try to remember that we all react differently to situations and there is no right way to feel. 

How we can help

Having changes to your fertility can be a really difficult, upsetting time and you may feel overwhelmed. When you feel ready, there are places that can offer support and, if you want it, guidance on completing your family in another way. Our other information pages about fertility may help:

Our Helpline is open if you want to talk through anything or simply have someone listen to your concerns on 0808 802 8000

Check our Helpline opening hours >

If you want a safe, private space to talk with others who have been through something similar, visit our online Forum where we have a space dedicated to fertility. You can ask questions, share your feelings and form a supportive network that is available all day, every day. 

Join our Forum >

If you have general questions about cervical cancer and fertility, our Ask the Expert service may be able to help. Submit your question confidentially to our panel of experts and get a tailored reply. 

Use our Ask the Expert service >

Thank you to Fertility Network UK who helped us review this information. Thank you also to the other experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it. 

References

  • Royal College of Nursing (2020). Fertility Care and Emotional Wellbeing.
  • Royal College of Nursing (2017). Fertility Preservation.
  • National Institute for Healthcare and Excellence (2014). Fertility problems quality standard.
  • Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2013). Fertility Sparing Treatments in Gynaecological Cancers.

We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]

Read more about how we research and write our information >

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Date last updated: 
06 May 2020
Date due for review: 
06 May 2023
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