This week is the National Fertility Network's Infertility Awareness week in the UK and it is something I am extremely passionate about.
Despite the first IVF baby being born in 1978, there is still much misunderstanding around infertility. In recent times, Dolce and Gabbana even called IVF babies "synthetic, chemical offspring". These comments caused much controversy but it is clear that there are many people who still hold these kind of views. I have read many a comment from extremely religious people who also think that IVF is wrong and that if a couple have fertility issues it is because they do not deserve to have children and other comments which seem insane to me. The term 'test tube baby' is also still thrown around regularly, when this is far from how IVF even works!
It is very upsetting that there is so much ignorance in the general public but also understandable in a way because there is still so much taboo and embarrassment over fertility issues, despite the high numbers of couples who actually deal with them. Many people feel as if they cannot talk about their fertility problems and will hide them or maybe admit there is an issue but not really talk to anyone about it in great depth. This is the reason for these infertility awareness weeks and hopefully will make a difference in increasing public consciousness.
You may have read articles before about what not to say to an infertile friend or family member and it can be hard to know what to say. You may feel as though you are being helpful but these well meaning comments such as "just relax and it will happen" can actually be very frustrating. I believe it is often better in these situations to show empathy that the person is going through a difficult time and listen to their feelings about the issues they are having.
I think that if adults struggle to understand infertility it is obviously even more difficult to explain to children. That is one of the reasons I wanted to write my book, so I could explain infertility and the IVF process to them in a way that is easily understood. I believe that if children grow up with an understanding that some people do struggle to conceive and what treatment may be required it can only be helpful. It is my hope that future generations will grow up with a better understanding of infertility and will be much more empathetic towards people going through these challenges. Predictions are that infertility will affect an even greater percentage of couples in the future and it can only be beneficial that as many people have an understanding as possible.
The reasons for infertility are numerous; there are male factor issues, female issues, secondary infertility, unexplained fertility and in each of those categories there are various problems such as PCOS, Endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes etc. The treatments are also very varied, not just the 'typical IVF' that you have heard about but still might not really understand. I aim to put the spotlight on a few different stories this week to give a small overview of the range of infertility issues. I hope you learn more about infertility and it can help you if you know of a friend or family member that is going through their journey currently or in the future.