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I went to Washington, D.C. last week as an advocate for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes reproductive health and equal access to family building options for those who are battling reproductive disorders. Infertility strips you of any feeling of power or control. Not knowing when or if you will be able to have children is completely debilitating, and 1 in 8 couples in the United States deal with some form of infertility. For me and the other advocates whose lives have been touched by infertility in some way, this trip was an opportunity to get a little power back.
To be able to walk the hallways of government buildings in D.C. and visit the men and women of our government was the most incredible experience. Having recently become an American citizen, it was thrilling to be able to exercise my rights under the First Amendment. And while there are still many injustices in the coverage of infertility for families throughout the United States, I was there to specifically support The Family Act of 2011 S. 965, a proposed tax credit for costs associated with infertility medical treatment, and to push for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cover veterans whose injuries at war have resulted in their infertility. As it stands today, when veterans are injured in action and that injury causes infertility, their health insurance will not cover them in this regard. After putting their lives on the line to protect the freedom of us and our children, we then deny them the chance to have children themselves.
I find myself getting quite emotional writing this (and I am still shocked that I managed to hold it together while in Washington), but this is an important issue that needs to be recognized. I feel honored to have been amongst so many courageous and moral men and women fighting for fertility rights during my trip. In one sense, I felt enamored with the government system because of the fact that I, little old me, could make an appointment—or just show up at the different state offices—and present my case to anyone that would listen. But at the same time, I was also disheartened by the long battle ahead on behalf of the rights of Americans and our military heroes who want to have children. I am no stranger to budgeting problems, and the money to fund the effects of this act is going to have to come from somewhere.
While there is still much left to be done to bring light and awareness to this issue, the chance to instill my passion and educate people with the power to make a change was an amazing opportunity. I hope that when my daughter and her friends want to have children, for the 1 in 8 of them that may be affected by infertility concerns, they won’t have to think twice about whether their health insurance will cover them for their infertility treatment. After all, it is hard enough to struggle through infertility, but to layer on financial hardship or be unable to afford treatment is something that no family in our modern society should go through.
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.
CelebrityBabyScoop is taking a look at 10 celebrities who have used a surrogate mother to expand their families. From Elton John, to Nicole Kidman, to Giuliana Rancic, to Sarah Jessica Parker, hear how gestational carriers have helped change the lives of some high-profile families.
Elton John Sir Elton John and David Furnish welcomed their second son Elijah on January 11, 2013. The doting daddies used the same surrogate mother for their 2-year-old son Zachary.
“She is a wonderful, kind and loving woman,” Elton said of their surrogate, who thinks of her as “part of our family.”
The couple used the same egg donor for both boys and have chosen not to find out either of their son’s paternity.
Nicole Kidman Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban welcomed daughter Sunday on July 8, 2008. But after a “roller-coaster ride with fertility,” the couple used a gestational carrier for their second child, now 2-year-old daughter Faith.
“Having given birth and then being there to see my child born in that way, I felt so much love for our surrogate, gestational carrier,” Nicole said.
The Academy Award-winner went on to discuss why she uses the term “gestational carrier” as opposed to “surrogate” – something she was criticized for in the days following the announcement of Faith’s birth.
“We were trying to be accurate,” she shared. “The term ‘gestational carrier’ is used if it’s your biological child and if it isn’t, then you use ‘surrogate.’ I mean, who knows what it is. But she’s the most wonderful woman to do this for us.”
Elizabeth Banks What to Expect When You’re Expecting actress Elizabeth Banks and husband Max Handelman have welcomed both sons – Felix, nearly 2, and Magnus, 3 months – via surrogate mother.
“Like Felix, Magnus was born via gestational surrogate,” she shared. “This experience has exceeded all expectations, taught us a great deal about generosity and gratitude, and established a relationship that will last a lifetime. I am also so very thankful to our family and friends for their support throughout this process, as well as the Center for Surrogate Parenting for helping make all this possible.”
“It was a womb issue for me. Embryos wouldn’t implant,” she said of her fertility issues. “It’s a big leap, inviting this person into your life to do this amazing, important thing for you. And it’s hard losing that kind of control. But our surrogate is so extraordinary, and she’s still in our lives. She’s like an auntie.”
Neil Patrick Harris How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris and partner David Burtka are dads to 2-year-old twins Harper and Gideon. The Doogie Houser alum opened up about welcoming the twins via surrogate mother.
“We really, really wanted kids,” NPH said. “We really had thought it through financially, emotionally, relationship-wise. We didn’t just accidentally get pregnant and decide that now we need to make this work. These kids come into our world with nothing but love.”
The handsome couple talked the science behind the birth of the fraternal twins, revealing each father fertilized one egg and the twins were carried and born via one surrogate.
Burtka explained that the twins were conceived by “two eggs, two embryos, one of mine, one of his.”
The couple knew the surrogate, whom Burtka described as “more like the oven.” And they found an anonymous egg donor through a donation bank where they were able to research her personal and medical history.
Bullying by Childhood Peers Leaves a Trace That Can Change the Expression of a Gene Linked to Mood
A recent study by a researcher at the Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS) at the Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine and professor at the Université de Montréal suggests that bullying by peers changes the structure surrounding a gene involved in regulating mood, making victims more vulnerable to mental health problems as they age. (via ScienceDaily)
School Officials Look Again at Security Measures Once Dismissed
Now, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, school officials across the nation are reviewing security protocols, including lockdown drills and building entry procedures, but also whether to hire more armed guards. (via New York Times)
Global Rates of Infertility Remain Unchanged Over Past 2 Decades
In 2010, almost 50 million couples worldwide were unable to have a child after five years of trying. Infertility rates have hardly changed over the past 20 years, according to a study by international researchers published in this week’s PLOS Medicine. (via ScienceDaily)
Muscle-Loss Study Sheds New Light On Ways to Prevent Muscle Loss, Obesity and Diabetes
A research study from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has yielded important breakthroughs on how the body loses muscle, paving the way for new treatments for aging, obesity and diabetes. (via ScienceDaily)
Standing While Pregnant ‘May Slow Fetal Growth’
Researchers found that women who stood for the majority of time at work had babies whose heads were around 1cm smaller than average. (via BBC News)
Baby’s Birth Captured by MRI
German researchers have used Magnetic Resonance Imaging to peer inside a woman’s body during labor, a medical first that sheds light on the birth process. The researchers created the 30-second movie using cinematic MRI, a technique that strings together snapshots from deep inside the body. (via ABC News)
New Rule Aims to Prevent Deaths in Play Yards, Mesh Cribs
The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to enact a tough new safety rule for play yards. The rule tightens testing for durability and stability, sets a minimum height requirement for the sides, and requires locking mechanisms to keep the products from collapsing on children. (via USA Today)
Continued Infertility Treatments Drive Pregnancy Success
Women in their 30s and 40s who undergo multiple infertility treatments may be nearly as likely to deliver a baby as women who conceive naturally, according to new research. (via ABC News)
About 10 percent of women in the United States (ages 15 to 44) have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of course celebs are part of that statistic, but all the hype over A-Lister baby bumps, not to mention the number of celebs who give birth over 40, makes it seem easy to get pregnant in Hollywood. Recently, five stars debunked that myth when they spoke out about their own fertility troubles. According to GirlsTalkinSmack.com, some of them tried in vitro fertilization (IVF), some struggled with miscarriages, and others finally adopted after years of struggling to conceive their own children. Brooke Shields, for instance, underwent seven rounds of IVF before she conceived her daughter Rowan, while it took six rounds of treatment for Celine Dion to become pregnant with her twins. “What starts out as a dream becomes a project that’s all consuming–everywhere you look, women are pregnant, and every song on the radio seems like it’s all about being pregnant!” Shields says. Marcia Cross resorted to IVF and donor eggs to conceive her twin daughters, Eden and Savannah, in her 40s. “It’s very, very difficult to get pregnant in your 40s,” she says. “It’s costly and tough on your body and your relationship.” Hugh Jackman and his wife Deborah ultimately adopted two children after they were unable to have biological children.
What do you think: Is it helpful for celebs to reveal their own infertility struggles, or do these stories have more of an impact if you know the person with the problem?
New Male Birth Control Concept Shows Promise A birth control for men may be on the horizon. Now, research to interfere with the body’s ability to use vitamin A is showing some promise, because, in men, vitamin A is necessary for the production of sperm. One recent study found that a compound that interferes with the body’s ability to use vitamin A rendered male mice sterile while they were receiving 8- or 16-week courses. But once the mice were taken off the compound, they resumed making sperm. (Yahoo)
Kids Who Bully Often Get Poor Sleep Poor sleep may be a factor in aggressive behavior among kids, according to new research that found that children who bully other kids are more likely to be sleepy during the day.
Womb transplants may soon become an option for women born without a womb, or those who’ve had their wombs removed due to disease. Animal experiments have been successful and now doctors are ready to try implanting donor wombs into the body’s of wombless women desiring to conceive and carry their own baby, according to an article in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Research.
A womb transplant wouldn’t be easy, or budget-friendly though — a close tissue match must be found (from a mom or sister for example) and immunosuppressant drugs would be required to prevent organ rejection, a c-section is a must because transplanted wombs wouldn’t be able to handle the strain of natural childbirth, women would likely need IVF to become pregnant in the first place, and the womb would need to be removed after one or two pregnancies.
As a medical advancement, the possibility of a womb transplant is impressive, but do we really need to go there? IVF and other fertility treatments can help pregnancy become a reality for many women, and for women who can’t conceive and carry their own child even with those technologies, this may be the only answer — but should there be a point at which we say there simply isn’t an answer? Even with the ability of womb transplant technology, very few women will be able to afford the costly production it requires, and many are still questioning the safety of the procedure.