Speaking Out on Fertility

Why it’s time to end the stigma and start the conversation

Posted Feb 13, 2018

petrunjela/iStock
Source: petrunjela/iStock

Women are speaking out about sexual harassment and abuse, domestic violence, and pay equality. So why are we not speaking out, speaking about, or speaking to each other, about our fertility issues?

Celmatix, a next-generation women’s health company, conducted a survey of 1,000 women, ages 25 - 33, who have children, want children, or may want children, and found:

  • 60 percent reported that they don’t talk to their friends about their fertility.
  • More than 25 percent of the women who have frozen their eggs or are considering egg freezing haven’t spoken to anyone about it.
  • 21 percent who have experienced miscarriages have not told their partners.

But since we know from studies that women are hard-wired to need social connection, and the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education finds that feeling connected to others can lower our anxiety and depression levels, talking about fertility problems would seem to be natural.  Especially because other studies show, women with infertility problems can feel as anxious or depressed as women with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.

So, let’s look at some reasons why many women are suffering in silence.

  1. The majority of gynecologists still don’t initiate discussions around fertility assessment. According to a study in 2015, Only 25 percent of women say they’ve discussed fertility with their gynecologist and fewer than 40 percent say their doctor was the one who brought the topic up.
     
  2. Articles about celebrities getting pregnant in their 40s don’t mention egg donation, so many women think fertility extends to menopause. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a healthy 40-year-old has only about a five percent chance each month to conceive with her own eggs, yet many women still think fertility is linked to their health and fitness rather than their age (Daniluk et al., 2012).
     
  3. Egg freezing and fertility tests are expensive. Many women who don’t have insurance or fertility coverage like Progyny, which gives access to all fertility-related treatments, often don’t talk about egg freezing because they consider their finances private.  Besides, many have told me, they don’t want to seem “desperate” if a date finds out, or “too focused on having children” if their co-workers or boss finds out.
     
  4. Women who have had a miscarriage often don’t share the information because they say it’s almost impossible to convey to others what it’s like. Even though they are encouraged to talk about the loss, counselors in the field will tell you that most of the women only want to talk with others who have been through it themselves! Not even to their husband or partner.
     
  5. And last, but not least, here are some of the reasons I’ve heard in counseling sessions over the years on why women don’t talk about their fertility:

If I tell - I’m inviting constant questions, which are hard to take if IVF is not successful.

If I tell - I’ll get advice I don’t want or need.

If I tell - I’ll get everyone’s misinformation and referrals.

If I tell - everyone will tell everyone who will tell everyone and so forth.

If I tell - my family will worry.

If I tell - my in-laws will judge me.

I can always tell, but I can un-tell.

Understanding the significance of the Celmatix findings is just step one, however, step two is doing something about it.  Speaking out about fertility issues will give women more information, more experiences to draw on, more referrals, and more emotional support from others who have been through the same journey!

Celmatix, together with a few allies Progyny, Fairygodboss, Flutter, Fruitful, LMHQ, Maven and Tia, are doing something about it. They’ve decided to launch a space where women can share their stories and pledge to "Say the F Word" (fertility, of course) in 2018. On the dedicated site, www.wesaythefword.com, women will “Pledge to #SaytheFword,” and share their reproductive health goals. For every pledge, Celmatix will donate $1 to nonprofits supporting women’s health including the Women’s March, Resolve, and Planned Parenthood, up to $25,000.

Get involved. Get help. Give help!