Have you ever sat in a fertility clinic and wondered “how many other people are doing the same thing as me right now?
How many couples are doing the same wait as us?” Has your mind ever wandered to what couples in other countries face when they go and make those appointments with a fertility doctor – do other cultures offer the same treatments? Can people over 40 have IVF? Is there such a thing as having mouldy eggs?
Has your brain ever gone into overdrive about infertility and IVF and you find yourself googling away for hours, only to find yourself coming up for air at 3am with sore eyes, a confused head and more questions than you started with?
Do you feel like you are the only one who knows what this feels like? Like no one else understands, and you want to scream sometimes because people keep telling you to “relax and it will happen”, that “it just takes time” – but you already know you don’t have time on your side, or that you have a medical condition that is already making it harder for you?
Yes. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there.
There are over 50 million couples worldwide who want to have children, but can’t. For a large proportion of those couples, they will be able to access fertility treatments (how fairly they are accessed is another story for another time). But how does the perception of infertility change across the globe? What about those who cannot access treatments, and how does cultural difference affect people’s ideas of “normal” when it comes to fertility?
Cross-cultural experiences of stigma and Infertility
One in every four couples in developing countries had been found to be affected by infertility, when an evaluation of responses from women in Demographic and Health Surveys from 1990 was completed in collaboration with WHO in 2004.
The burden remains high. A WHO study, published at the end of 2012, has shown that the overall burden of infertility in women from 190 countries has remained similar in estimated levels and trends from 1990 to 2010.
In many cultures around the world, women who do not have children suffer from stigmatization, discrimination and ostracism, even if the underlying cause lies in their male partners or husbands. It’s not always intentional, but it’s there. Studies have widely observed that the social burden of infertility “falls disproportionately on women. When a couple is unable to produce, the man may divorce his wife or take another wife if they live in a culture that permits polygamy.” Women’s experiences of stigma have been documented all over the world:
“Sometimes people will say, ‘ah, she’s like that, she doesn’t have children…you don’t have the feelings of a mothers so that’s why you say what you do.’” – Cameroon
“My brother-in-law said to us once without respect that we won’t know how to teach children since we do not have any. We felt insulted.” – China
“Hmm the people in my community are real gossips. They talk too much. They gossip a lot about it. Sometimes I pass by some places and all that I see is people pointing fingers at me.” – Ghana
“I like to be alone at home and do not like to go anywhere. A woman who does not have a child must stay at home.” – Iran
“Our culture demands that, for a woman to be socially acceptable, she should have at least one biological child.” – Kenya
“Now whenever I go to any family gathering, right away they ask me this question. It feels very strange. When someone comes to meet me at my house they ask the same question. I feel very hurt that why do people say this thing.” – Pakistan
“My depression is [primarily] because of my neighbourhood. Whenever I socialize, they ask me questions like, ‘Don’t you have a child?’… If I say that I am trying to get a tube baby, it will fly around immediately and we will become a subject of gossip.” – Turkey
“My maternal instinct is being denied. It’s a slap in the face. I feel like I’m isolated in a prison; I have no one who understands how horrible this is. People don’t know what to say to you … I think I’m alternatively dealt with as either someone who has died or that [I] have a handicap.” – United States
“Whenever people ask when I’m going to have children, I tell them I can’t have kids, and they look at me like I’ve handed them a dead puppy. People don’t know how to react and often say the completely wrong thing – usually along the lines of “lucky you, kids are a nightmare” or “just relax and it will happen” – not helpful.” – United Kingdom
World Fertility Day 2020
So why am I going on about this? Well, because we here at IVF babble are always wanting to reach more people, push more doors open and let every single member of the #TTCTribe know that we are here for you. We want to break the silence surrounding infertility – heck, we want to shout about it from the rooftops – and give people a voice. We want to give people a sense of community and a place where they can feel safe and comfortable to talk about everything and anything infertility, regardless of all the usual societal factors – Age, Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Country, Planet (ok I’m getting carried away now) and let you all know – WE HEAR YOU AND ARE HERE FOR YOU.
On November 2nd, 2018, IVF Babble launched the first ever World Fertility Day. An annual awareness day when we celebrate, deliberate, discuss, highlight and campaign for your fertility. Worldwide. How awesome is that?
There are loads of amazing projects in the pipeline leading up to #WorldFertilityDay2020 (love that already) including a host of articles from experts around the globe, and a series of articles that will go in depth on many topics that affect couples facing infertility, but most importantly, we want to hear from YOU. We want to hear your stories, your experiences and how you cope with infertility, wherever in the world you are. So please get in touch, you can email us, reach us on Instagram, Facebook and twitter using the hashtag above.
IVF is lonely, isolating and soul destroying, and can crush even the strongest of warriors. But I promise you, you are never ever alone, and we want to show everyone around the globe that too. It’s not just for one day, although it will be celebrated on that day, the #TTCtribe is always here for you.