Social Stigma Surrounding Fertility
How many of your friends, sisters, coworkers, are openly discussing their LH, FSH and AMH over brunch? How often are the terms “stimulation start” or “trigger shot” used in your vocabulary outside of your home or the walls of your physician’s office? Unfortunately, though it is talked about more frequently in 2021, the shame, taboo and stigma of the infertility world perpetuates today.
According to a World Health Organization report, more than 10 percent of women are affected by infertility (Taebi, et al.). Yet why do so many women report feeling as if they are “failures” for struggling to conceive or maintain a pregnancy? A comprehensive study from 2019 studied a group of both fertile and infertile women asking each cohort a series of questions regarding their feelings about their fertility. The conclusion of the study summarized that despite the increasing awareness and technology—infertility stigma persists, particularly for women. The results suggest that the consequences that negative emotions from judgement and stigma can cause include strain on interpersonal relationships, lead individuals to hide their diagnoses from friends or family or even avoid treatment all together (Worthington, et al.). Unfortunately, this study is only one example of many with similar conclusions.
However, raising awareness is not a lost cause for facilitating an environment of accepting and inclusivity. Though women, and men, still may experience negative emotions and backlash surrounding infertility and alternative routes to building their family, the conversation has become increasingly encouraged by celebrities and public figures. Former first lady, Michelle Obama, in her book Becoming writes about her experience going through IVF to have her two beautiful daughters. She stated in one interview on Good Morning America “I think it’s the worst thing we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how the work, and how they don’t work.” Obama represents only one of many, but her willingness to cast light on previously secret struggles and how prevalent they are amongst women, and hopefully encourages women to share theirs as well.
Personally speaking, I grew up always knowing that my sister and I were both IVF babies. My parents were very open with us and educated my sister and myself about what the process meant for both parties and just how much it physicially, emotionally and financially demands. did not feel shame about how my family was formed until being told in elementary school that it was taboo, not accepted by some of my friends families’ religions, personal or societal beliefs. I could not quite understand why the journey to create a family mattered, when the end result is the same.
I am proud to be an IVF nurse and a part of all of my patients’ stories. I hope that through your journey at IHR, you feel empowered to share your story of how you got to 409 W. Huron St., inspired to ask questions to others, and feel a part of a community that will work against any and all stigma you may feel or face. We are all in this together, for one common goal—to make miracles happen.
Taebi, Mahboubeh et al. “Infertility Stigma: A Qualitative Study on Feelings and Experiences of Infertile
Women.” International journal of fertility & sterility vol. 15,3 (2021): 189-196.
Worthington, Amber K., et al. “A Comprehensive Examination Of Infertility Stigma Among Fertile And Infertile Women In The United States.” Define_me, Penn State University; Modern Fertility, San Fransisco, CA, 16 Oct. 2019, https://www.fertstert.org/action/showPdf?pii=S0015-0282%2819%2931687-5.