• Phoebe Adams

If IVF is a disease, why are we so ashamed of it?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines infertility as "a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse."

On my last round of IVF I googled all of my medications. Standard. One of them was a drug to assist 'severely infertile' women. I couldn't stop crying once I read that. Severely infertile!? For me, infertility sounds so definite. It sounds like you are incapable of falling pregnant. But how can this be happening?? I already have a child!

The Dr's at the start said that there wasn't anything wrong with us. But clearly there was. We were infertile. What they should have said was that you have Unexplained infertility: "Infertility cases in which the standard infertility testing has not found a cause for the failure to get pregnant. Unexplained infertility is also referred to as idiopathic infertility. Another way to explain it is the "doctors can't figure it out" group." as explained (or unexplained) by one US clinic.

So, let's talk about this disease:

  • Does it affect a lot of people? Yep. One in six Australian couples are infertile.

  • Is it curable? Nope.

  • Are there remedies to help overcome it? Yep.

  • Do those remedies have a high success rate? Not really.17% of all Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) cycles resulted in a baby according to the latest ART Study in Australia and New Zealand. This obviously doesn't take into account people who have used other methods to increase their fertility or to conceive, just ART treatment.

I don't want to compare infertility to other diseases but I do want to say that one in six equates to a hell of a lot of people!!! So if it's extremely common, why are we so ashamed to talk about it?

Am I strong enough to fight this disease?
I hope so, but strength won't make much difference. Unfortunately.

I'll tell you why, from my perspective. It makes me feel like less of a woman. It makes me feel like a failure. Do you know any other diseases where you can blame yourself for it? Even when it's not your fault? I can't think of any. I love this article where they talk about it as pure grief. For me I relate because of the overriding sense that I can't take any more pain but having to put myself right back out there again or having to live with the regret that I didn't do enough. I know people mean well when they tell me to be positive and relax; stress won't help. But it's not always easy. There is such profound loss when a transfer doesn't work, or when embryo's don't survive. Or in many cases when pregnancies miscarry. This hasn't been my path but I feel so much empathy for families who have experienced this.

Can you imagine how a man feels when they get told that they're infertile? If I feel like less of a woman, how would they feel? If it's hard for a woman to talk about it, can you imagine guys opening up about their feelings of failure? I can't. I really want to explore that with Minus One.

Anyhoo, I'm trying to remedy this thing. I can feel the drugs starting to work which is good. C'mon ovaries!!! C'mon follicles!!!

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