Empty Frame and Jackie Stewart

Guilt, shame and pressure: the emotional toll of infertility

By Anna Masefield - 30 October 2015

“The whole world became one big fertile globe with expectant mothers and young families no matter where I went, whatever I was doing…. colleagues at work became pregnant month after heart-breaking month…. infertile was my primary identity it never left me for a moment…” one client describes her feelings. 

Independent counsellor Jackie Stewart, who supports patients of the Cambridge clinic, says: “Individuals who learn they are infertile often experience the distressing emotions common to those who experience any significant loss — including shock, grief, depression, as well as loss of self-esteem and a sense of lack of control over their destiny.

“In my experience a huge amount of people also feel a sense of guilt and shame - for something that they feel they “should” be able to do easily and naturally.

“The pressure on the couple is huge; unlike other traumas they might experience, they are often unable to support their partner as they are only just able to keep their own head above water.”

The emotional journey of infertility is explored in a play by PSYCHEdelight, ‘The Empty Frame’, that Bourn Hall has helped bring to Cambridge. It is a daring and socially engaging new work that uses drama and visual effects to highlight the complexity of this personal journey.

Following the performance there will be an opportunity to discuss the issues in a Q&A, with independent counsellor Jackie Stewart, a Health Psychologist from Anglia Ruskin University, and the play’s writer and co-star Sophie Bessie, who drew her inspiration from her professional experience in a London fertility clinic.

Patients of Bourn Hall Clinic receive free counselling, which includes support to help patients to ‘move on’ if treatment is ultimately unsuccessful; perhaps to be a parent in other ways or to embrace a childfree life. This type of specialist support is not widely available.


After a successful first run in London and Paris, 'The Empty Frame' is coming to Cambridge.

Venue: Mumford Theatre, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge, CB1 1PT

Time: 7.30pm, Saturday 7th November 2015

Age: 14+

Cost: £12.50 (£8.50 student, £10.00 concessions)

Tickets are available from the booking site or by calling the Box Office on 01223 352932.


NFAW is organised by Infertility Network UK and it provides support for people at all stages of the infertility journey to find out more please go to

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