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Smashing the Infertility Stigma

November 14, 2018

Infertility & pregnancy loss sucks. Experiencing a miscarriage or delivering a stillborn baby is awful. While a miscarriage does not typically allow you to see or hold a baby, this does not mean you don't have a right to grieve your loss. When a baby is delivered stillborn, you still have a right to be treated with care, respect, and patience by medical staff. It can be traumatic for the pregnant person and/or their partner. 

 

I have not personally experienced this myself, but my professional career and personal relationships have opened a door into how common and heartbreaking it is. Not only is it emotionally taxing on you, your partner, and your relationships, it is a HUGE financial responsibility. The added stress of friends and relatives asking things like "when are you planning on having children?" at social events or comparing yourself with "societal norms" doesn't help either. 

 

The topic of infertility also remains absent from everyday conversation. How many people do you know who have experienced infant loss of any kind? How did you react when you heard about it? What were some of the conversations you had with that person? How were you supportive of their emotions? If it was a heterosexual couple, did you check in with the male? I've heard things said to people experiencing loss - things like, "oh don't worry! you're young and have more time to have babies", "at least the pregnancy was not that far along", "maybe it [this loss] was a blessing in disguise", etc. I don't agree with this. While these things are probably said to be seen in a positive, optimistic way, I find them emotionally damaging to the person experiencing the loss. I think supporting the person by checking in, listening to their feelings, and offering physical support such as home cooked meals, a coffee date, or care packages are more effective. Acknowledge their loss and what it means to them; do not try to make them move on immediately.

 

I was at work the other day with the news on in the background; I see Michelle Obama on the screen. She's being interviewed on Good Morning America. The headline is: First Lady speaks about Miscarriage & IVF treatments. Or something along those lines. She goes on to talk about how she experienced a miscarriage and that her two daughters, Malia and Sasha, were conceived via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). How cool! Someone who has so much respect and visibility in this country is able to open up about this intimate experience, something that will aid in ending the stigma around loss and infertility treatments such as IVF. 

 

"I felt like I failed because I didn't know how common miscarriages were because we don't talk about them. We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we're broken." -Michelle Obama

 

Some of the key facts I received from an article covering this are below: 

  • Over 8 million children have been born via IVF worldwide.

  • Professional women are more likely to seek out assisted reproductive technologies "because they have put their careers before childbirth and left it too late to have babies the natural way, as the common cultural myth goes, but because they can afford to" (Beers, 2018). 

  • The Pew Research Center found that 9% of women aged 35-44 underwent fertility treatment. When this percent is broken down by race, there are major discrepancies. "While 12% of white women report that they or their partners have undergone treatment, only 3% of black women, and 5% of Hispanic women report the same" (Beers, 2018). This is a race issue. 

  • 63% of American women pay for fertility treatment completely out of pocket due to exclusions on their insurance plans or not having insurance at all (Beers, 2018). 

Be sure to check out Michelle Obama's new book Becoming, which was released today (November 13th, 2018)! She also has some excellent interview clips with abc news. 

 

Let's start ending the stigma with loss and fertility treatments. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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