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Life without children

After cervical cancer treatment, having a child may not be right for you. This could be for lots of reasons, from the available alternative ways for having a child not feeling right for you, to being worried about your health. Or you may feel that this path has been decided for you because of cervical cancer and its treatment. 

However you arrived at this point, remember that we, your healthcare team and other specialist organisations are here to support you. While your life may now be different to one you imagined, it can still be enjoyable and fulfilling. On this page, we’ll talk through some ways of adjusting to a future without children, as well as getting support.

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Dealing with other people’s reactions

Life without children can feel especially isolating, as there is sometimes still an expectation of what is ‘normal’ in today’s society. This may be reflected in attitudes, with some people believing those without children benefit from more money, less responsibility and greater freedom. Of course, this doesn’t take into account anyone’s individual situation and certainly isn’t always the case when you have had a serious illness like cancer. 

Read more about isolation after fertility changes >

Most people, especially your loved ones, are likely to respect you not having a child and offer any support you need. In fact, many people affected by fertility changes may not experience any stigma or negativity from anyone. However, some people may have strong opinions about those without children and make them known, whether or not they know about your situation or feelings. 

Although this kind of reaction can be hard to deal with, you can prepare for those reactions and try to protect yourself.

You don’t have to explain yourself or your situation

You may find yourself faced with confusion and pity, as some people can’t understand why someone doesn’t have children or has seen negative portrayals in the media. While it is unhelpful to feel this way about a personal choice, it is incredibly insensitive to those who can’t have children. But it is up to you whether you want to share your story – no one has a right to know. It can help to think of some quick answers topic ahead of time that will help you change. You may say something like ‘Let’s not talk about that – have you heard about X?’

You can ask people to stop talking about it

If you tell your family or friends about changes to your fertility, they may immediately go into ‘helper’ mode and start suggesting solutions, like alternative ways to have a child. While they have good intentions, this can be incredibly hard or hurtful to hear. Remember, you do not have to have those conversations or feel you need to be polite. It is okay to ask people to stop talking about it or offering those suggestions. 

You can reach out to others in a similar situation

If you find reactions from people who haven’t been through changes to fertility insensitive, you may find comfort in connecting with those who have. There are lots of organisations, like us, who have forums where you can read other experiences or chat. It is also worth remembering that more people generally are starting not to have children or to have them in a different way, for example by becoming a step-parent or adopting. While their situation may not be the same, it may help to be around people who have different priorities in life. 

You can take some time for yourself

While your family and friends will probably want to support you, it is okay to need some alone time, by yourself or with a partner. You can decide when and how you want to see people while you process things because you are the priority – the most important thing is to look after yourself and your feelings. 

Dealing with the reactions we’ve talked about, and any we haven’t, can be hard, but try to remember that most people do not feel this way and will do all they can to support you. Feeling as strong as possible in yourself is one of the best ways to cope with other people’s reactions. Sometimes extra support from an expert can help you achieve this, such as a counsellor specialising in fertility changes.

Find a counsellor >

Getting support 

You may find strength and support in a group of family and friends, or others who have been through a similar experience. You may want some expert help from a counsellor specialising in fertility changes.

Fertility Network UK have support services specifically for those without children, including webinars, an online community and face-to-face meet ups. While most people find family and friends are understanding, sometimes socialising can mean being asked intrusive questions or coping with insensitive comments. These services offer an opportunity to meet others facing life without children without that pressure. 

Visit the Fertility Network UK website >

How we can help

Knowing that you won’t have a child, whether by choice or circumstance, can be incredibly difficult and you may feel isolated from family and friends. We have more detailed information about the feelings you may experience and how to manage them.

Read about feelings after fertility changes >

Our Helpline is here to support you 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 >

We also host Let’s Meet, an information and support day for people affected by cervical cancer, in September every year. You can meet others in person and attend sessions that may help with your situation. If you can’t make Let’s Meet, we run regional Mini Meets throughout the year.

Find out more about Let’s Meet >

Aging Well Without Children

A Community Interest Company focusing on the issues facing those ageing without children, whether by choice or through circumstance.
https://awwoc.org

British Infertility Counselling Association 

Find an accredited counsellor specialising in changes to fertility.
www.bica.net

Fertility Network UK 

Fertility Network UK provides free and impartial support, advice, information and understanding for anyone affected by fertility issues. It has specific information and support for those facing childlessness. 
http://fertilitynetworkuk.org/for-those-facing-the-challenges-of-childlessness/support

Gateway Women

The global friendship and support network for childless women.
https://gateway-women.com

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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