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Why Infertility Is Still Taboo, and What We Can Do About It

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We talk too little about infertility

Infertility and fertility problems have a huge impact on your life. Uncertainty, tension, worry, medical treatments, sex at "mandatory" times. These are all things that come into play during a fertility journey. No one gets happy about it. And infertility is still taboo, while it can be so helpful to be open about it. Why do we talk about fertility problems so little?

1 in 6 couples have fertility problems

Did you know that roughly 1 in 6 couples experience fertility problems? That means you probably know several couples who struggle with infertility. Maybe your friends, siblings or colleagues. It's unbelievable that we don't talk about such a common problem.

Emotional rollercoaster

When you start treatment for infertility as a couple, a lot of things come at you. Everything is new. The emotional rollercoaster starts. There will be tests that are sometimes painful or uncomfortable. There will be good or bad results. Often you have to wait a few days for these results.

And then the treatment for infertility starts, hopefully. In 85% to 90% of cases, treatment is possible. But you do not know how long it will take to conceive. Weeks, months or years. And you know you can end up not getting pregnant after all.

Imagine what all this does to you. You have doubts and are afraid. Will it hurt? Will I suffer from side effects? Will it work out? Is pregnancy even worth it? There is only one way to find out. You just start the treatment and wait for results.


Ashamed about infertility

Many people are ashamed of their infertility. Women feel like they "have" to get pregnant. Anyone can do it, right? Then you should be able to do it too. Men feel less masculine when their sperm doesn't work properly. Then it makes sense not to talk about your infertility.

Did you know that the cause of infertility can be either in the man or in the woman? The cause is in 1/3 of the cases in the woman and in 1/3 of the cases in the man. In 1/3 of the cases of infertility, the cause is unknown or it is due to the combination of the man and woman.

Infertility is personal

Maybe you don't want to share at all yet. You are in a period of uncertainty. What should you tell people? Because you don't even know what's going on. And you do not want to talk about it all the time. You certainly don't want family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances asking about it all the time.

You're not "supposed" to talk about it

Pregnancy announcements are still often heard after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Before 12 weeks, things can still 'go wrong'. The chance of a miscarriage is fairly high. You 'should' keep it quiet until that time. But is this still appropriate for today? More and more people are being open about miscarriages. Because it is so nice to receive support in the difficult period that follows.

This also applies to infertility. In the past people didn't talk about it. But it is so nice when your friends and family can support you in this uncertain time.

Well-meant tips and advice

Another reason people prefer not to share that they are dealing with infertility: well-meant tips and advice. Everyone seems to have the solution to your infertility. Drink less alcohol, quit smoking, eat healthy, lose weight. And the worst: let it go. Let go? How do you let go of what you want most?

You can let this slide off you, but it's hard. It seems like people think it's your own fault that you can't get pregnant. And that is not the case at all! You can do very little about infertility. But make that clear to people who all believe their own stories.

Many people open up when they're pregnant, or even later

Often people do have the courage to tell about their infertility or fertility problems when they are pregnant. Or they already have a child. Then it is not so exciting or uncertain anymore. It is then easier to tell how you got pregnant. And how long it took.

Some people still find it private. They are often open about it when they hear other stories. People who tell them that they are in a fertility treatment program. Then it helps enormously if others are open about it too. Even if those people are already pregnant or have a child. It offers hope to know that getting pregnant is possible.

When you tell your story about infertility, others will follow

It is striking that people become open about their infertility when you tell your own story. Suddenly everyone knows a couple with fertility problems. Or they have undergone fertility treatment themselves.

The difference between infertility and subfertility

We usually talk about infertility. As if that's an established fact. But for many people, it is not. There is a difference between infertility and subfertility. Thank goodness for that. Because someone with subfertility can have children.

What is infertility?

Infertility means that you are infertile. If you're infertile, it is not possible to have children. For example, you can't get pregnant. Or you can't make a woman pregnant. Maybe your ovaries or uterus don't work the way they should, or your sperm doesn't.

What is subfertitilty?

Subfertility means that it is harder for you to get pregnant. It doesn't happen naturally. And it often takes longer. The bright side: with medicines or treatments it is possible to get pregnant. And sometimes it only takes a lot of patience, no medical interventions.

Sometimes it's not clear whether you are really infertile

It's not surprising that people confuse the terms infertility and subfertility. Suppose you are not pregnant after a year of trying. Then you might be afraid that you are infertile. In many cases, this is subfertility. You can get pregnant, but it takes longer. Or you may need medication. Sometimes there is even an IVF procedure involved.

But when you go to the doctor after a year of trying to conceive, you don't know where you stand. You don't know if you can ever have children. That makes it confusing. And stressful.


How do we break the taboo on infertility together?

Now the most important part. Let's break the taboo on infertility. We can only do that together. By talking about it without judging others.

Don't judge about infertility

If someone tells you that they are infertile or have fertility problems, don't judge. Just listen to the story. Ask questions and keep an open mind. Never tell anyone to "let it go". You are not an expert. You don't know what's going on. And you don't understand the solution. So someone who is open about his story does not want your judgment

Talk about it yourself if you have fertility problems

Someone has to start leading by example. why not you? Talk about your fertility problems. If that's scary for you, it's best to start with your parents, siblings, or close friends. Later you can also tell about your infertility to colleagues and acquaintances.

Explain what infertility means to you

For "fertile" people it can be hard to understand what infertility really means to you. They don't know the despair and sadness. They probably don't know what it feels like to miss out on experiencing a pregnancy. So explain what it does to you, and how it feels. Explain what you have to do to be able to conceive. And others will be more supportive.

Ted-talk about breaking the taboo on infertility

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