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Book Review: Precious Babies - a counsellor's view

16 January 2012
By Jenny Dunlop
Senior Infertility Counsellor
Appeared in BioNews 640

Precious Babies: Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting after Infertility

By Kate Brian

Published by Piatkus Books

ISBN-10: 0749954019, ISBN-13: 978-0749954017

Buy this book from Amazon UK

'Precious Babies: Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting after Infertility' by Kate Brian

This book fills a gap for many people who have conceived through fertility treatment, but realise that the physical and emotional impact continues well after the treatment has ended. It is essentially a reassuring book about how to cope, with personal stories interspersed with sensible, expert advice.

Author Kate Brian has used her own experience to illustrate the issues that can arise during pregnancy, childbirth and the subsequent years of parenthood. It draws upon many personal insights and wisdom, which could also help health professionals working in the field.

At the heart of 'Precious Babies', as Clare Lewis-Jones points out in the foreword, is the fact 'that [the] huge emotional impact doesn't go away once you find you are pregnant'. One of the personal stories reinforces this: 'I know it is not rational [that someone is going to snatch the pregnancy away], but when it does work, you are even more worried that you might be tempting fate by getting too confident'.

These words illustrate how pregnancy, birth and subsequent years of parenting following infertility treatment are both significantly and subtly different to those following a naturally conceived child.

I found myself immediately drawn to such emotional and moving personal accounts. However, Brian succeeds in balancing them with practical tips, and professional knowledge and advice.

She covers everything from the initial news (in 'The Long-awaited Positive Result') to the subsequent parenting stages ('Pregnancy', 'Birth', 'Donor Families' and 'The Teenage Years and Beyond'), as well as discussing some of the other associated issues (in 'Miscarriage', 'Postnatal Depression' and 'Only Children').

I think this book will help people who struggle with the continual feeling of being out of control following conception. This can often lead to anxious pregnancies, and similarly anxious early parenting years. Many women suffer from post-natal depression following fertility treatment, and yet they feel unable to return to their fertility clinic. Hopefully it will help those people, who are often left feeling they should be overly grateful for their child. Personally, I found the chapter on post-natal depression, and its discussion of how to recognise the condition, as well as other issues of bonding, and what can be done, particularly useful. It is such a complex area, and yet I feel is often neglected.

I believe healthcare professionals could learn a lot from this book. As Professor Bill Ledger says in the foreword, many who work with infertile couples assume that certain areas will be dealt with later on in the process of pregnancy. A personal story detailing one woman's feeling of abandonment following successful fertility treatment stood out in particular. This book is a stark and timely reminder that clinic staff should not take anything for granted.

However, although this book could be extremely useful to those who have achieved a pregnancy following fertility treatment, I did wonder whether in looking at the teenage years (and beyond) Brian went beyond the scope of the main title and theme 'Precious Babies'. Perhaps there is room for another book looking at the issues that arise during the teenage years, and beyond.

A final, small, criticism is that I felt secondary infertility seemed to be rather dismissed. I am sure all infertility counsellors will own to having had clients to whom secondary infertility was just as traumatic as primary infertility.

Would I recommend this book to someone who had had fertility treatment and now found herself pregnant? Most certainly, yes. Even more than that, I would suggest that clinics consider giving it to everyone they help get pregnant.

Without a doubt, Brian has achieved her overall aim to help others who have complex emotions surrounding fertility treatment; the feeling they are, and will always be, different from other parents because of how they conceived their precious baby. Any book that makes people feel less alone during one of the most important stages of their lives must be beneficial.

Read Rachel Pepa's review of Precious Babies: Pregnancy, and author Kate Brian's response to Rachel Pepa.

Buy Precious Babies: Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting after Infertility from Amazon UK.

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I was delighted that Rachel Pepa's review of my book 'Precious Babies' concluded that it had much to recommend it as a guide to having children after fertility problems as that's exactly what the book is intended to be. I wasn't surprised that she didn't feel it addressed her issues as a donor-conceived adult because the book is not about donor conception or adults...
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