Welcome back to How I Made It, Metro.co.uk’s weekly career journey series.
We’re at the end of Fertility Awareness Week, so this time we’re chatting with Sandy Christiansen, a fertility coach at Béa Fertility, who helps people boost their chances of pregnancy.
The 37-year-old, from Haywards Heath, works with people on their fertility journeys, providing resources and advice to support.
She says: ‘I strongly believe fertility information and treatments should be accessible and affordable.
‘My job involves open and honest conversations, almost like fertility therapy, where we’ll talk about anything related to fertility or family forming from both an emotional and a practical perspective.
‘Fertility isn’t one size fits all, so often we will start by discussing a strategy that will help that client get to where they want to be.’
It can be an emotional job – here’s how she made it happen.
Hey Sandy. What made you want to be a fertility coach?
After working as an embryologist for over 10 years, I noticed that the level of support patients received varied wildly from clinic to clinic.
I most enjoyed working in clinics that were big on patient interaction and the patient experience – and it was clear to me that patients benefited from the additional care and support we could provide beyond clinical treatment.
I’m still in touch with some of these patients to this day and it was this realisation of the power of having expert emotional support during a fertility journey that led me to fertility coaching.
Have you always connected with this side of healthcare?
No, I ended up in IVF by chance and I’m grateful for it.
How did you train for what you do now?
There’s no specific qualification to become a fertility coach, but my embryology certification and clinical expertise together with my life coaching certification have provided me with the skills I need to support my clients.
I’ve also completed additional courses and continue to learn more to help deliver quality care (for example I’ve undertaken bereavement care training, compassion-focused therapy training and fat-positive fertility training for healthcare professionals).
There are many fertility coaches who have little fertility knowledge, but I firmly believe that qualifications and experience in the sector is critical in order to give safe and sound advice.
Is the job emotionally taxing? How do you handle that?
Yes, it can be, but I have help, too.
The team I work with is phenomenal and we always try to support each other so we can better support our clients.
I also have access to therapy and my therapist specialises in fertility, so it’s very helpful.
Can you tell me about the transitions you made from being an embryologist to working for the NHS to becoming a private coach? What was it like making the switches?
It was scary! I started out self-employed and did a lot of market research to see what was out there and what additional qualifications I’d need.
I’m currently the only fertility coach in the UK with a background in embryology, so I had to create my own path.
Where do you feel the NHS is falling short, and where can people like you come in?
NHS appointments are short and the fertility space can be so difficult to navigate.
Even with referral letters, patients don’t always know what they’re for or where to go.
Some people are told to ‘do their own research’ and feel overwhelmed and underprepared when going into treatment.
The mental health aspect of experiencing fertility problems is often overlooked too.
An average day in the working life of Sandy Christiansen
9am: Sandy preps for morning meetings that start at 10am.
11am: She makes plans for content creation at Béa Fertility and works with the marketing team to make sure that the content shared on the website, newsletters and social media is scientifically accurate.
1pm: She does research which involves reading recent scientific publications and connecting with future clients.
2pm: Coaching sessions can begin which range from 30 minutes to an hour, and this goes on until the end of the day.
What do you love most about your job?
I love it when my clients leave a session feeling confident.
A session often starts with a bit of nerves and anxiety and by the end they’ve opened up and it’s like a weight off their shoulders.
Fertility problems can sometimes be very isolating and just by having a safe space to talk and feel heard, where they can get the support they need, can be very empowering.
I also love exploring new and exciting treatments and therapies that can help people get the start they need for their family.
At Béa Fertility we’re on a mission to make clinical-grade fertility care available at home, which is really exciting.
What do you like the least?
A lot of the time I try to help people by finding solutions, but in some cases, a perfect solution doesn’t exist.
The UK’s healthcare system isn’t easy to navigate and people often struggle to find the right information when they need it.
Different areas in England have different rules for accessing fertility tests and treatments – often referred to as the IVF ‘postcode lottery’.
Part of my job is navigating the system to help people understand their options.
But sometimes that solution doesn’t exist or isn’t accessible or financially feasible, and this can be difficult for me to accept.
To be honest, it also makes me sad that people like me are needed: I wish fertility clinics could provide the level of support and guidance that patients need and deserve.
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