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Taking 5 with Alice Almeida

Founder Alice on starting a company and supporting others through infertility

Alice Almeida is founder of The Amber Network, a directory of services that she wished she’d had on her IVF journey, designed to support and connect both men and women through infertility and IVF with self-care, support and education.

Watch the webinar on demand: Mental Health: the missing piece in fertility treatment to learn more about Alice's passion for a holistic approach to IVF and fertility and why mental health is so important.

What led you to found The Amber Network?

I was determined to launch The Amber Network after my own 5 year experience doing IVF.

There were too many times where I felt isolated, ill-informed, depressed, and lost – I was constantly thinking “there must be a better way” or “I’m about to break but do they care?”

The Amber Network has been designed off everything I wanted and needed while going through IVF, which didn’t exist or was difficult to find.

Did you always know you’d lead a company one day?

Strangely enough, no. I loved working for big media organisations and being part of a large team.

The choice was forced on me when I struggled to re-enter the workforce at the same level, after taking time off to have my daughter.

At the time, it was really tough – but it’s been a huge blessing in disguise. I love running my own company now.

Why do you think mental health is the missing link in IVF?

Throughout your fertility journey you are told to “relax” or “stay calm”. You are told about how toxic stress and anxiety can be when you’re trying to conceive – BUT no one tells you how to manage or work through it. Mental health seemed like an after-thought or something that was the “fluffy” side of IVF.

It wasn’t until I changed specialists to one who considered mental health as just as important as the medical side, that I felt heard and supported.

Prior to that, there were many occasions where I opened up about the struggle I had with my mental health, only to be told “it’s a numbers game you just have to keep on going”. Sadly, after interviewing many women who have been or are going through IVF, they felt or feel the same way.

How can partners and family members provide support to a woman undergoing IVF?

For partners it’s hard. They are suffering as well and really need to look after their own mental health in order to support their partner in any way. They need to have an outlet, someone outside who can support and comfort them, whether that be a friend or relative.

IVF is one of the times in life where both partners are hurting and breaking, so it’s impossible for both to provide full support to each other.

My advice for anyone else who wants to support someone through fertility treatment is simple. Be there, and not just once, but for the long haul that is IVF. I had a truckload of support during the first cycle, but many of my support network disappeared after that and got on with their lives. In reality, it’s actually the 3rd or 4th cycle (plus) where you need the most support, not the first. What support someone needs or wants differs by person, so ask them. Tell them you want to support them and ask how they’d like to be supported (but do this at the start and not when they get bad news).

My last bit of advice, is don’t speak for the sake of speaking, but don’t back away if you don’t know what to say either. Some of the best support I had was a sister or friend just sitting quietly and holding me. You don’t need to fill the silence with words….

How do you prioritise your own health now that you’ve completed your own IVF journey?

Even though I have finished my IVF journey, I have a lot of baggage from years of bad news and heartache. You carry this for life and if it’s not managed correctly (or at all), it can hit you like a freight train when you least expect it – I am speaking from experience here.

Launching a network where I was trying to help people heal and be nurtured through fertility treatment when I hadn’t fully processed my own IVF experience, was incredibly triggering and became overwhelming.

After seeking the help I so desperately needed, I now recognise the signs of these moments, I have a clearer mind when faced with triggering stories, and I have the right kind of support behind me.

I couldn’t do it on my own – having the support you need around you is vital! And sometimes that support can come from a complete stranger who has been there and gets it. This is a strong reason why we included the community section on The Amber Network.

Psychologists now believe that many women experience PTSD after going through fertility treatment, so if you are feeling down or lost at the end of your journey, you’re not alone. But I strongly encourage you to seek help.

What does wellbeing mean to you?

Wellbeing is so much more than eating healthy and exercising. You could eat perfectly well and exercise daily, but if your mental health is not in order, it can be incredibly toxic on your mind and body. This is why it’s so important to consider wellbeing seriously when going through fertility treatment.

If I had my time again, I would invest as much in my wellbeing and mental health, as I did with fertility treatment. I wish I had learned how to recognise the start of those broken moments, what to do when they happened, who to speak to, and where to turn. Instead, I buried those emotions, which then grew heavier and heavier over time, eventually breaking me.

There’s a reason why specialists tell you it’s so important to “relax”. The Amber Network is designed to tell you how to do that!

Looking for a health-driven community focused on pursuing better wellbeing? The Wellbeing Group is a private Facebook group where you can ask questions and find inspiration for your health.

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