Let’s talk about something we really ought to be talking about a whole lot more: Infertility. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 6.7 million American women aged 15-44 (that’s about one in every ten) will or would have trouble getting pregnant.Yet there’s still this horrible stigma around talking about infertility.
The struggle to get pregnant is one of the worst triple threats a woman or couple could face. Several friends have been trusting enough to open up to me about trying to conceive, and, as a journalist I’ve interviewed many women coping with infertility over the years—yet the confusion, sadness, and frustration many feel never ceases to cut to my core. I’d call it more of an emotional hell than an emotional struggle. Then on top of that, you’ve got the physical struggle. Many fertility procedures are invasive (think surgery)—and getting daily or weekly fertility injections can be brutal.
Finally, and for some, most importantly—you’ve got the financial struggle. The thing is, the emotional and physical struggles are almost always worth it to women who want more than anything to become mothers. But the financial burden can only be “worth it” to those who can afford it, and that’s not everyone.
The high costs of fertility treatments often act as a flat-out barrier to those who can’t afford them. Sure, there are some places in this country where couples having trouble trying to conceive get awesome support—like Massachusetts, where insurance companies that provide pregnancy-related benefits are required to cover diagnosis and treatment of infertility, including IVF. That’s amazing . . . if you happen to live in Massachusetts. If you live in, say, Georgia, your insurance company isn’t required to cover any fertility treatments. Not one.
If you’re curious (or simply really need to know!) about infertility support where you live, you can look up fertility clinics in your area here, and then check out the just-released, state-by-state Fertility Scorecard, created by the phenomenal people over at the RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. They’ve got an interactive map, showing you how each state ranks in terms of providing women with the tools they need to get pregnant. I think anyone looking at the facts will agree that we’ve got a long way to go when it comes to infertility support in America.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosie Pope over the phone for our February issue, and last week, I got to meet her in person. If you haven’t seen her Bravo show Pregnant in Heels, it’s a reality show where Rosie helps out-of-touch pregnant couples, mostly New Yorkers, get ready to have their baby. She’s filming a new season—and pregnant with her third child, due in May!
The “pregnant” part is relevant because Rosie is very open about her fertility struggles. She has used IVF; she’s had to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. Her current pregnancy came more or less “naturally,” though she jokes that having been “jacked up on fertility drugs” in the recent past probably played a role. Her candor and honesty about it all makes you feel like, in her, you have a girlfriend you’ve known all your life. (Albeit one with a funny hybrid American-English accent and crazy long dancer’s legs…in other words, much more glamorous than most girlfriends.) So if you’re looking to hear from someone who has been on the front lines of fertility struggles, perhaps because you’re going through them yourself, I highly suggest you check out her blog which describes some of her heartache and hope.
Here are 3 things I learned from my time with Rosie and also with Susan Wysocki, a renowned nurse practitioner:
1. We take home-pregnancy tests for granted. Like, ridiculously for granted. It wasn’t so long ago that a doctor would have to inject an animal with a woman’s urine to know, early on, if she was pregnant! But the fact that we have easy tests doesn’t seem to make us any more relaxed. We expect to get pregnant as soon as we start trying, and we’ll test ourselves six times, as if we’ll get a different answer. Testing is simpler and more private now, but getting pregnant is still the same “miracle,” as Rosie says, it has always been.
2. Nosiness is at an all-time high. It’s tempting to shake a finger at the tabloids and their overzealous “is she pregnant?” speculation (poor Kate Middleton!), but my coworkers and I were tracking Jessica Simpson as if we couldn’t help it. We were waiting for Beyonce’s announcement with baited breath too. But Rosie pointed out that it’s the real-world nosiness that really gets to you; the people who ask “Are you trying?!” over Christmas dinner. (Her response: “That’s private,” said firmly but with a smile, ends the conversation…unless maybe you’re talking to your mother or mother-in-law.)
3. More pregnancies happen over the holidays than any other time, according to Susan, who was at our soiree as a spokeswoman for Clearblue. Why? Who knows! But many of us have extra time off, and nice meals at home, and maybe alcohol gets involved…at any rate, a lot of babies are born in August and September, nine months after the Thanksgiving-to-New-Years run.
And on that note…maybe you’re trying for a baby in 2012? In case you are, the folks at Clearblue are generously providing three goody bags that I can give to three very lucky people. Each bag has one of their highly rated Clearblue fertility monitors, 30 fertility monitor test sticks, 7 ovulation tests, and 2 pregnancy tests. That’s $350 worth of pregnancy tools per bag! Interested? Post a comment here; don’t be shy, we’re a whole community of parents and we get it. You have through the end of the day on Wednesday, December 21st, to post, and are allowed to post once a day. For the full rules, click here. Goody luck!
IPad opens world to a disabled boy: Owen Cain, seven years old, has suffered from a debilitating motor-neuron disease since infancy. By chance, Owen gravitated toward his nurse’s IPad and instantly was able to use it without complication. This is the first device that has enabled Owen and many others disabled young ones to use actively without assistance. [New York Times]
Pregnancy less likely when dad is over weight: Dr. Zaher Merhi, New York, concluded that among couples using assisted reproductive technology the male’s weight does influence the outcome. Every 5-unit increase in the father’s BMI was associated with a 28 percent decrease in the likelihood of clinical pregnancy. [ABC News]
Train the brain: using neurofeedback to treat ADHD: Neurofeedback is an alternative type of therapy intended to keep the brain calm and focused. Although it is still scientifically unproved, expensive, and time consuming there is growing evidence that it can help. [NPR]
Analyzing eggs and their genetic junk offers clues to fertility: Brown University researchers eventually hope to be able to analyze eggs’ mRNA to determine if it’s normal or abnormal. If something’s askew in a particular egg’s polar body, it could be a biologic clue indicating that egg isn’t likely to successfully fertilize. This could later lead to new forms of contraception and new ways of detecting prime eggs to fertilize. [Time]
After learning about Robert Edward’s Nobel Prize win for his contributions to IVF and, at the same time, Dr. Michael Kamrava’s legal troubles for possible negligence in his practice of the procedure – we just had to know: Where do you stand on IVF?
The question sparked a lively debate among our commenters. Many of you agreed that it was a wonderful tool to help with infertility, while others found it unethical, and some stayed on the fence. Check out a sample below, and then take our poll and leave a comment to tell us where you stand!
“I think IVF is an awesomely, wonderful tool for couples who want to have a child. I was unfortunately diagnosed as menopausal at age 27 and with the help of egg donation (from my sister) and after 4 attempts at IVF, we were finally blessed this fall with our daughter, Grace. She is the love of our lives…” – Amanda Kendzierski
“…It only increases the chances of complications. I agree that the doctors need to have consequences. They are either endangering the patients health or help the fraud (giving birth to multiple kids to get welfare money). In either way it’s wrong and should be punishable. ..” –Alexandra
“IVF can be a wonderful tool, but I think it can be too tempting to play God. One must be very careful when considering how far they’d go for a child “of their own” (meaning one they’ve carried in their own womb). I do not think insurance companies should pay for IVF… if couples can fund the procedure, great. If not, adoption should be the route they take. Saving a child and giving them a good home and life is worth every bit as much as a medical procedure!” – Tricia Cooper