Over a million IVF babies have been born since Louise Brown made her debut in England in 1978. These are the children of the one-in-ten couples who experience infertility and refuse to give up on their dreams of family. They are the sons and daughters, we've always wanted and deserve. Their life affirming presence is testimony to the fact that infertility is a disease that can be conquered and should never be ignored, or pushed into a dark closet of shame and denial.
I have been advocating for people who struggle with infertility for a long time. I have been talking about infertility for almost half of my life. I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility at the age of 24. I went from shame-faced, to advocate by the time I was 27. We won't talk about my age now, but it is safe to say that I have been representing infertility patients for better than two decades.
I have been featured in major media outlets talking about the pain of infertility, the cost of infertility, varieties of infertility experience, our embryos, new procedures, the children of the infertile, coping with the holidays, preventions, cloning, stem cell research, ovulation, aging and reproduction, and the need for insurance companies to routinely include coverage for infertility treatments. The public relations firms that I have worked with over the years have done the same. Eight years ago, I tried to add up all of the interviews I had done, and it added up to 2500!
I have written and lectured. I have literally shouted about the cause of infertility from the steps of the capital to a room full of state senators, and during Christmas on The Today Show, and talked about doctors that followed best practices. Yet, right after that appearance, I visited with a top Republican aide about federal legislation for infertility. During our chat, this aide turned to me and said, “Infertility? Doesn't that only happen to Anorexics?”
Hello? Is anybody listening? Is anybody out there? Infertile couples are still not being heard. Even with so many infertility advocates our there, and wonderful organizations like RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association who is in the midst of launching yet another National Infertility Awareness Week being honored this week from April 22-28, 2012 – the trying to conceive remain just tiny blips on the world screen. But this is the week that we raise our collective voices and shout “We are here! We are Here!” Just like the “Who” that lives down in “Whoville” from one of those Dr. Seuss books. The infertile have stopped being silent a long time ago. Now we are turning up the volume. It's time to extend access to care to everyone.
Here are some facts:
• Infertility prevents people from creating a family – one of the most fundamental and highly valued human activities. A United States Supreme Court decision concluded that reproduction is a major life activity as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Infertility affects people of all ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.
• Infertility is a medical condition, not a sexual problem and not a curse. Infertility does not equate to sexual dysfunction. Infertile people are just as virile and beautiful as everybody else.
• Infertility can put a couple on hold. It is a life-stopping crisis that can affect everything a couple does, from job performance to self esteem, to important decisions such as buying a house or taking a new job.
• Infertility affects more than one in ten people of reproductive age around the world. It affects both men and women in about equal numbers. The mean age of those seeking infertility treatment is about 32.
• As with other serious diseases such as cancer and heart-disease, infertility can lead to depression and anxiety, affecting job performance and productivity, as well as relationships with family and friends.
• There are few areas of medicine that have advanced as rapidly as infertility treatment in the past two decades.
• Infertility treatment is provided by reproductive endocrinologists who are specialists in reproductive health. Though most people associate treatment with “high tech” procedures such as invitro fertilization, approximately only 2 percent of patients actually need these treatments.
• Infertile couples achieve families with the assistance of a vast array of increasingly refined medical therapies and treatments including egg, surrogacy and sperm donation.
People can survive infertility, but it is time for them to thrive through infertility. This can only happen when all of us stop ignoring infertility. So let's raise our collective voices and speak the truth about infertility. Infertility is not a sign. A curse or a punishment. It's a disease that can be prevented, treated and cured. We've got over a million kids to prove it.
What To Do After Reading This Article:
Check out Pamela Madsen's Fertility Blog: The Fertility Advocate for a wonderful list of important resources for anyone struggling with infertility.
Learn about Pamela Madsen's fertility coaching practice.
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