For many of us struggling to conceive with our first, second or even third child there are a range of options that are available: IVF (and other fertility treatment), donor insemination or surrogacy, letting Mother Nature take her course, deciding to remain child free and of course adoption.

When my husband and I were not able to conceive naturally, we dived headfirst into a course of IVF which luckily was successful, but we also spent time researching and looking into adoption, aware that if the fertility treatment didn’t work, we wanted to be parents and adoption would definitely have been the next stage of our journey.  If you’re having fertility issues, it’s important to look at all of your options….

I’m considering adoption – what do I need to know?

Deciding what step to take isn’t easy, there are lots of factors to take into account:

Your age

Whilst there is no upper age limit for adoption, it’s a fact that success rates for IVF and other fertility treatments decline with age.  Whilst you may feel pressure (as we did) to start fertility treatment as soon as possible as your biological clock ticks more and more loudly, with adoption there’s no panic!  In fact, the adoption process can now take as little as 6 months, less time than it takes to have a baby naturally!  However, it is advisable to take a break after your last treatment or after a miscarriage, and adoption agencies will often prefer that you wait at least 6 months before starting an adoption assessment.

Adoption is not an alternative to conception

It sounds obvious, but adopting a child isn’t the same as conceiving naturally.  If having children is something that you and your partner have dreamed about, planned and hoped for, then making the decision to adopt is a big one.  It’s important to take the time to work through any emotions of disappointment or grief and to make sure that you are both ready to wholeheartedly move on and devote your energies to adoption.

You don’t have to try fertility treatments…

Fertility treatments, whilst becoming more and more commonplace, are not for everyone.  If the idea of it seems too invasive, too artificial or maybe conflicts with your religious or moral beliefs, then adoption can be a great first choice.  Fertility treatment can be extremely costly, physically and emotionally uncomfortable and the odds for some couples are not in their favour, for some people the urge to be a parent to a child or children that need a family is stronger than the desire to have their own biological child.

Do you have the emotional strength to adopt?

The answer is YES!  If you have undergone the emotional and physical upheaval of fertility treatment  and are now considering adoption, you have already been through a lot. Research shows that for many couples coping with infertility strengthens their relationship. Adoption agencies welcome couples whose relationships are resilient and have stood the test of time, and you may have learned a lot about dealing with stress and emotional challenges which will stand you in good stead when you become a parent.

Have you got children already?

If you’re having secondary infertility issues (problems conceiving a second or subsequent child), and considering adoption you will of course want to think about how this will impact on your existing family.  Preparing your children for the new arrival , will be part of the adoption process and it is usual for an Agency to require the adopted child to be the youngest by at least 2 years, as a reasonable age gap and giving each child space has been shown in research to be beneficial.

Age of the child

Whilst there are around 4000 children in England waiting to be adopted at any one time, most of these are not babies.  Its common for potential adopters who have fertility issues to want to adopt a baby, to experience parenthood from the early stages much as you would with a biological child.  It’s also ok to be honest about this with your adoption agency.  However it’s also good to be realistic from the outset and to understand it is rare in this day and age for a baby to be given up at birth, so most children needing adoptive families are between 12 months and 4 years old.

For more help and advice about whether you feel adoption is right for you, take a look at www.first4adoption.org.uk – a great resource for prospective adopters.