Infertility Globalization and the Need for Common Understanding
by Keiko Zoll, TheInfertilityVoice.com
“I feel so alone.”
It’s a thought whispered over and over again among those diagnosed with infertility. The physical and emotional stress, combined with a deep longing for parenthood and a lack of control, create an overwhelming sense of isolation. Yet despite how isolating infertility can feel, infertility is far more prevalent and widespread than most people – infertile or otherwise – even realize.
Infertility is a Global Health Crisis
In the United States alone, it is estimated as many as one in six couples experience infertility, according to a new study by the National Institutes of Health, matching Canada’s current infertility rates. In the United Kingdom, infertility affects as many as one in seven couples. In China, recent studies suggest as many as 40 million people struggle with infertility.
Globally, the World Health Organization estimates a far more staggering number: infertility, either primary or secondary, affects as many as one in four ever-married women, making infertility prevalent among 10-15% of couples worldwide. And many experts believe that the global number of infertility cases number is rising.
So why is it that, despite the widespread prevalence of infertility globally, so many in the infertility community still feel so alone?
Isolation, Silence and Shame Within the Infertility Community
Isolation is one of the most common and “normal” feelings when dealing with infertility (as normal as one can feel while dealing with an infertility diagnosis and treatment). Infertility deals with such private physical and emotional experiences that it’s no wonder a couple facing infertility can feel so isolated: feelings of embarrassment, shame and failure are devastatingly common to the infertility experience.
When talking about what is or isn’t working in the bedroom is generally considered taboo, it’s no wonder then why infertility can feel as isolating as it does.
It’s this often self-imposed silence that also can add to the crushing weight of isolation. Talking about infertility has for decades been equally as taboo as talking about private matters in the bedroom. The lack of common conversations around infertility and reproductive health in general have left many to believe fertility issues aren’t that common at all, despite the bevy of global statistics that say otherwise.
The Cultural Impact of Infertility Advocacy
The key to breaking down the barriers of isolation within the infertility community lies in the need for a global, compassionate conversation about infertility as disease. This conversation must include topics such as the emotional, physical, financial, spiritual and even ethical impacts of this disease.
Key stakeholders include anyone living with infertility, infertility survivors, physicians, researchers, nurses, lawyers, social workers, mental health professionals, complementary therapy practitioners, and lawmakers. We need to hear from adoptive parents, adoptees, and families conceived through assisted reproductive technologies. We need to hear from egg donors and surrogates. We need to hear from the people living with infertility every day, waiting month after month to realize their dream of building their family. We need to hear from the waiting grandparents and hopeful aunts and uncles who want nothing more than their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters to build their families.
It is through our collective voices that this conversation transcends cultural differences to create a common, global understanding of infertility as disease and the validity of the human desire to parent. As the taboos around infertility begin to fade, as public awareness about infertility increases, the time is ripe to engage in not just a national, but also a global conversation about our disease, to further break down taboos and raise awareness. The lasting cultural impact of infertility advocacy can be profound, moving our community from isolation to empowered interconnectedness.
The oft-repeated Gandhi quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” is especially fitting when it comes to infertility advocacy. We know that work needs to be done for the global infertility community.
So ask yourself: how will you be a part of that global change?
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