One of the most difficult parts about receiving a diagnosis of infertility is the lack of awareness and support for those of us affected. The general lack of knowledge in the public and private sectors directly affects people's ability to get access to the care they need. Why? Well, infertility was only recently recognized as a disease beginning in 2009, and up until now it's largely been something that "people just don't talk about." As someone with a 91 year old grandma who had 7 surgeries to repair her female reproductive system in the 1940/50's and was ultimately still unable to successfully conceive a child of her own, I can assure you infertility was around much earlier than 2009! It just hasn't been a topic that is important enough for our society to visit.
Incorrectly so, many couples are ashamed of the fact that they can't procreate as easily as others. Even though 12% of childbearing aged couples in the US are affected by infertility, we are still in the minority, and this issue has not been a priority for policy makers, employers or medical insurers. Personally, I feel like the largest missing piece to this puzzle is awareness; What is infertility? Who is affected? What can be done about it? And unfortunately, as much as I write to my congress people (which I have done multiple times by the way) and as much as I support initiatives and sign petitions for medical coverage of infertility, sometimes there is nothing more powerful than a "shout out" from a celebrity who's been affected.
There have been plenty of celebrities in the past who have used IVF, egg donation, and surrogacy who have chosen NOT to talk about it. Kelly Preston, for instance, became pregnant at age 47 and has always been tight lipped
about her miraculous pregnancy, even appearing on a talk show recently
stating how "easy it was" to be pregnant at 47. This is where I become a
little irritated, only because more than likely she used A.R.T. (Assisted Reproductive Technology). I don't need to go to medical school to know she likely either had frozen
eggs/frozen embryos of her own OR that she could have used donor eggs with IVF
to become pregnant "so easily" at that age. Then again, maybe she's the second coming of the Virgin Mary and I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. Not my place to judge I suppose, but I just
feel it sends such a confusing message when you
want to talk about how great and easy it is to be pregnant at age 47 publicly,
but you don't want to talk about the inconvenient parts of what it took to get there. Believe me, I understand wanting to keep things private, but to kind of then gloat about it "being so easy" at age 47 is like a slap in the face if you DID in fact need a little help. I don't care who you are or how tough you are, IVF and other fertility treatments are no walk in the park. There are many reasons young men and women are waiting longer and longer to start families, and a misinformed view of what can actually be achieved naturally is being perpetuated by the multitude of 40+ celebrity pregnancy stories flooding the media. I just wish
more celebrities would be open about how all of these so-called miraculous 40+
pregnancies are actually occurring....with the help of science.
However, I have to commend the celebrities who have chosen to open up about their infertility struggles and use of A.R.T. People like Marcia Cross, Elizabeth Banks, Celine Dion, Brooke Shields, Cindy Margolis and others have my sincerest THANK YOU. I don't think it's the job of celebrities to be educating patients on what to expect entirely by any means, but too many women are being caught off guard when they reach their 30's and 40's and then find out they have many more roadblocks to creating a family than they thought possible, in large part BECAUSE OF the skewed info out there. Furthermore, only when infertility becomes more of a mainstream discussion, will people become more comfortable with fighting for the types of initiatives they want to see endorsed by their employers, their health care plans, and legislation. I'm obviously not scared to talk about what we've gone through, and I'd love to see more people to talk about it!!!
In addition to the women who have stepped forward to talk over the last decade, now more men are finally starting to open up too. In just the past week, I've seen two male celebrities talk openly about their own struggles with infertility. Hugh Jackman spoke yesterday on Katie Couric's talk show about he and his wife's failed IVF attempts, recurring miscarriages and adoption. Last week on The View, Tom Arnold opened up about his extremely low sperm count and inability to conceive with multiple partners, before finally having successful IVF at age 53 with his current wife (watch the video clip at minute 1:35 where he talks about it). BIG FAT KUDOS to hearing these men speak up and shed some honest light on the issue...especially the ones who are confident enough to talk about MFI (Male Factor Infertility). That takes a lot of balls, even if they are undescended! ;)
In our own real life, we've only had the pleasure of meeting a couple other people who have undergone fertility treatments. In those moments, it's quite refreshing to hear someone else's husband throw out the term IUI like it's just part of regular conversation without even batting an eye. It makes me feel just a little less alien for a brief moment in time. My hope is that more celebrities, including male celebrities, will speak up. We need more awareness on this topic, and even if it's America's least favorite Kardashians who are opening up about it, at least the topic is becoming something that people are now talking about more openly little by little.
Do you think celebrities have any moral obligation whatsoever to discuss their infertility struggles?
Do you think celebrity voice affects how infertility is viewed and/or the types of resources we offer people in this country?
Do you think the typical media coverage of 40+ pregnancies is misleading in any way(s)?