Then and now: has society really accepted infertility?

A few days ago, I mentioned how we recently learned a couple we know adopted their children. They are good friends and next door neighbours to my husband’s Aunt and Uncle. We’ve met them many times, but I never knew how they became parents.

When I saw them last Saturday, they congratulated me on my pregnancy. As the conversation flowed, I told them that we did IVF and they admitted how they understood our struggle to conceive.

After getting married, Joanne and her husband tried to conceive for 4 years before pursing adoption. At that time, fertility treatment options were unheard of. They have an adopted son and a daughter who are now in their 40s.

When Joanne told her Mom they decided to adopt, her Mom could not believe they were not waiting longer or trying harder to conceive their children naturally.

This reaction is very similar to how my Mom reacted when I told her we were pursuing fertility treatments – “Just relax, it will happen“.

Joanne and I both found it fascinating that time (45 years +) hasn’t changed the way the people react when they find out you are having difficulty conceiving and have chosen an alternate method of becoming parents.

We are very fortunate to have made significant advances in terms of medical treatment for infertility; however, we still have a long ways to go with educating society about infertility as a whole.

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8 thoughts on “Then and now: has society really accepted infertility?

  1. I am not surprised at all. The other factor is that you have a lot of people today who pass judgment on IVF, PGS and anything else that they have deemed to be frightening or intrusive. The problem, as I see it, is that you really have one big group of people, who are the fertiles. Most of whom had no trouble conceiving, most of whom had no miscarriages, etc. Then you have a smaller group that struggled somewhat – maybe it took them longer than they would have liked. Finally another group of the infertiles/repeat losses, etc. I know we are told that miscarriage is very common, but the truth is the statistics don’t bear that out EXACTLY. Which is to say that certain people will have repeat miscarriages, and lots of people will have none. So when they throw out numbers like 20%, it is in fact a lot lower than that, and so there is a smaller pool of people who can be sympathetic. Infertility also seems not to be seen or accepted as a disease yet by most people and so pursuing things like IVF is often described as a “lifestyle choice.”

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  2. I believe that those who do not personally experience IF or RPL do not understand the complexities of the decisions we make. Unfortunately it seems to be very easy to judge our decision without walking a moment in our shoes. I hope the more people like you and I speak out about our experience, the most people will start to understand the complexities.

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  3. On the other side of this I have found that within our circle of same-sex couples IVF and other treatments are very accepted. Maybe there is hope that it will trickle over 🙂

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  4. I think a big part is that more options are available to us now. I would bet good $ that IF sufferer rates are even higher than the estimated 1 in 6 or 8 or whatever your region estimates, and that many just don’t pursue medical help or adoption because of lack of availability in their areas or lack of resources. Two women I worked with, both in their 50s, admitted not having children despite years of unfruitful attempts with their long time partners. Each of them had gone through a bunch of tests to diagnose, but causes of their IF troubles were never found. Eventually they both decided to stop trying. If they had gone through this 2-3 decades later, they may very well have been able to make the babies they always dreamed of. I think the stigma is slowly fading, the more and more we talk about things openly.

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  5. For all the advances that we’ve made in infertility treatments, it is worth remembering that the first successful IVF (sans stimulation) was in 1978. The first “test tube baby” (as she was known) is now 36 years old, so we’re really just talking about one generation.

    Science can make leaps and bounds, but societal acceptance takes its own sweet time.

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  6. It’s crazy that the people are still giving the same advice of “just relax and it will happen.” I’m just so happy that in the past 40 years they have advanced so much in the fertility world and that IVF is now an options for us ladies.

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