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Support for childlessness: has anything changed between 2008 and 2015?
  1. Susan Quilliam
  1. Freelance Writer, Broadcaster, Consultant and Trainer, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Susan Quilliam; susan{at}

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2015 has seen a 65-year-old German mother with 13 children expecting quadruplets, a media storm over the testing of new reproductive techniques on actual human pregnancies, and the autobiography of the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown. In such a year, it seems pertinent for the Consumer Correspondent column to explore the issue of not being able to have a child.

This is not the first such exploration. It was in 2008 that this column first interviewed three women whose fertility was in question.1 Kate had become perimenopausal at the age of 36 years. Jane, in her mid-20s, had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, making it uncertain that she could conceive. Maria had been told that her heart condition meant she would be unwise to give birth.

The 2008 article concluded that none of these women felt fully supported in facing their situation. Information was scarce, support for their attempts to be fully involved in their diagnosis was even scarcer and, in particular, acknowledgement of their emotions was almost non-existent. I ended the 2008 article by suggesting that health professionals might find those judgments “hard to hear … but necessary”.

Have things improved, especially around acknowledgement that infertility is an emotional issue and needs support? In search of answers, I have looked beyond the medical profession to the media for indications of increased awareness, public opinion for evidence of greater sympathy, and private and public health sectors to see whether more help is now available. I also returned to the original interviewees to see what the intervening years have been like for them; none has since had children and for two the issue remains unresolved. I also contacted two women for whom infertility has been an issue more recently: Harriet (who decided not to undergo fertility treatment) and Felicity [whose …

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