Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Celebrities Dish on Infertility

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)?


  1. I think celebrities make everything in general look easy. We are in a place right now where we can't go further than 4 more attempts at IUI because our insurance doesn't cover anything more than that. Celebrities are all, "Oh I have 50 grand laying around, let's try IVF a few times." I am sure it's not really like this for them. I'm sure it sucks and their bodies feel the same pain and level of discomfort as anyone else going through IVF. It just looks easier from where we stand. At least financially easier.

  2. Amen!! I 100% agree that people in general should be more opened about IF struggles. Specially celebrities...because unfortunately they get more publicity. Just like they're so openly about anything else in their life they should let us know. Hey i went through it and your gonna get through it.

  3. I can see it both ways, some celebrities like Elizabeth Banks and Gulianna Rancic have been very vocal about their struggle with infertility and I believe that they have had many of the same struggles that we've had. They've had the stable job, the house, the means to support another life and were ready to get pregnant and they didn't. Some women haven't had that struggle (or at least they weren't vocal about it) I think that ART would lose it's 'voodoo' status if more people were vocal about the struggle to get pregnant. I still hate when people look at me and say 'it will happen' It's like a big FU like you're not doing everything under the sun to try and get pregnant!

  4. I really love when celebrities talk about the reality of IF and how hard it is. Not just I have to xyz to have a baby, but what a struggle it honestly is. Day by day, failure by failure, as the months and time goes on. The thousands upon thousands of dollars that can be spent for a mere chance at being a parent. I feel that when celebrities are honest, especially with someone like Hugh Jackman, it makes it real. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten the "just do IVF" speech. First of all IVF doesn't guarantee anyone a baby, it's just a "chance", secondly, IVF is a LOT of money, and that's not even factoring in all the emotional stuff with it. It just makes me mad.

    I don't know if celebrities have an outright obligation to speak about their struggles, but I am tired of Hollywood sensationalizing 40+ pregnancies, like it's so easy to make it happen. I know I really appreciate those that can be upfront and honest about the reality of IF.

  5. I don't think they should feel obligated to be open about their struggles, but I surely don't think they should pretend it was easy when a pregnancy is not going to be easy for anyone at 47! Sometimes I wonder how we never hear about later losses with celebrities. I feel like they happen more often than I ever knew they did, and most celebrities right now are announcing their pregnancies at 12 to 14 weeks. Obviously, I would never wish a loss on anyone, but it does make me wonder why it never seems to happen in Hollywood.

    I think it is great when celebrities like Guiliana and Khloe see RE's on their shows, because I think many people (like me) don't even know what an RE is until they hear about it from someone who has been to one, and they wouldn't otherwise have any idea there was any step beyond an OB. In fact, where I'm from in MS, there isn't an RE anywhere nearby, so OB's there aren't even suggesting an RE to people that have been trying for years. In fact, I have a friend who was told by her OB as a teen that she would not be able to have children because she has a tilted uterus. So, she's never even tried despite the fact that she always wanted kids, because to her, that was the final word on that, and tilted uteri aren't openly discussed. The more open people (in general) will be, the more we can help each other and bring attention to this issue.

  6. Hahaha, omg, "That takes a lot of balls, even if they are undescended!" -- you seriously crack me up, every time. I had no idea about Tom Arnold or Hugh Jackman going through IVF. It's interesting... I think it's still such a private process, so if a celebrity wants to plead the 5th, that's totally fair. What I do have a problem with is when they full-out LIE about it. Not cool.

  7. thank you emily, its really great to view and read your blog, eatloveprocreate is nice and i am going to share it with my friends.

  8. My only hope is to pray that whoever reads this finds my wife’s story inspirational or our story helps inspire someone along the way. I recently came across a story that talked about how the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation helps with family planning. My wife and I are in an unique position in planning for a family. The follow is copied from a website my wife and I setup to help share our story. We set up this site to share our emotions and hunt for inspiration as every day is a struggle. Please take time to read about us and what we are going through. Once again I don’t expect anything to come of this but I know I must continue to search for support so hopefully one day my wife and I can have the family we have always dreamed of.

    Source: http://www.yourcarign.com/amadnawelker
    A few years ago my husband and I started trying to get pregnant. After 3 years of trying we decided to go seek help. Our doctor suggested that i have an exploratory surgery to see what was going on. After the surgery he told us something we thought we would never hear. I had extreme scaring of my fallopian tubes causing hydrosalpinges resulting in infertility. He told my husband and I we would never be able to have kids naturally without help.

    Devestation, as a woman I felt cheated out of my right to give birth. My husband being the last male in his family felt like he had failed them. We have been to doctors in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee and all the doctors agree..

    There isn't a day that goes by that we don't pray for a child. We try and then every month I get my period and hope diminishes. We ignored the doctors for a while, thinking to ourselves they couldn’t be right. But every month we get a reminder that they are. We have explored all our options and have determined that IVF is our best option. For us boasting what doctors hope to be a 80% success rate. 80% that's great but then...

    The new healthcare laws stripped me from my husband’s insurance and we are now facing a very expensive procedure. So versus giving up hope we have decided to pray,save and ask for your help. We are a young middle class family (he is 31 and I'm 33), so we know money isn't easy to come by but we are asking for any donation, no matter what amount.

    This campaign is about bringing a gorgeous baby into this world but it's also about lifting our spirits and realizing that there are people out there that love and support us. Even a dollar donation will brighten our day and helps us realize we have wonderful caring people who share our dream of keeping a family name alive, God giving us a beautiful baby and answering our prayers. Thank you in advance for any help. Even if you don't donate keep this going by tell someone you know with infertility that you love them. Trust us when we say it makes a difference. –

    *** We recently sent this to our local news station and they were going to run a story about us. However they backed out at the last month stating the story was too controversial.