One in eight. That's the startling statistic of how many couples trying to conceive actually struggle with some sort of fertility challenge. Whether it's PCOS, low sperm count, endometriosis, or (ugh) "unexplained," infertility takes many forms, and is so much more common than we all think when we—with innocent, almost-naïve hope—begin to think about starting a family.
Even in busy reproductive endocrinologist waiting rooms, there seems to be an unwritten rule: avoid eye contact at all times, and don't you dare utter a word to another patient. Infertility affects so many, but oftentimes, we don't talk about it with anyone other than our partner and maybe our family. But why?
Opening up is hard to do
We're not going to lie, taking that first step is intimidating AF. There are tons of reasons why we might choose not to talk about our fertility struggles, like:
- They just won't understand: Before opening up about infertility, you might think nobody else could possibly understand, let alone empathize with your situation. I mean, how could they, if they haven't been through this themselves? They might say the wrong thing—and to be honest, they probably will at one point. But keep in mind, this doesn't mean they don't care about you, your infertility, or your overall well-being. Remember that.
- You're not picture perfect: It's super tough to come to terms with the fact that your life isn't the rainbows-and-butterflies false reality that social media often portrays. If you're actively trying for a baby, chances are your Instagram feed is filled with photos of babymoons, birth announcements and "X-months-old!" blocks. It's hard enough to accept that you're not there yet, so opening up to others? Yeah, that feels damn near impossible. Just know that you might not see what's behind the screen—for all we know, that birth announcement came years after trying for a baby.
- It'll make you upset: You cry enough in your alone time. So, we totally get wanting to skip the emotional breakdown that might happen if you open the floodgates and talk openly about your infertility. We've taken a totally uncensored, unfiltered approach to fertility, though, and we've got to say…it feels really good.
- It's really (really) personal: Let's face it: you might not exactly want to share that you don't ovulate or that your husband has poor sperm motility. These are super intimate topics that most people usually save for the bedroom. So, it's totally okay to pick and choose who you open up to and make sure it's a judgment-free zone.
- There could be repercussions: Being worried about getting held back at work because your coworkers know you're undergoing fertility treatment is a legit concern. For this reason, many choose to not share their fertility struggles with coworkers. But be kind to yourself. Prioritize your health. If the daily monitoring and hours spent on the phone with insurance are taking a toll on you, talk to your manager or an HR rep at your company. Or maybe a vent sesh in the bathroom with a trusted colleague is enough to do the trick.
We get it. There are lots of reasons we don't talk about our fertility struggles. Your comfort zone is determined by (a) the type of person you are and (b) the type of people in your circle.
If you choose to open up at all, choose the recipients of your news wisely. We all have that person in our life who might shrug off an emotional conversation, or someone who may come off as judgmental. Maybe go ahead and skip over those people. While they might love you, that shoulder for you to lean on is precious real estate. You don't owe your story—or trust—to anyone.
That said, while we are firm believers in breaking the stigma around infertility, if talking about it with others makes you upset or super uncomfortable, take the pressure off. Do you. Just make sure to take care of yourself and find some kind of outlet for the emotions you're most definitely feeling around this time.
Something else to consider? Talking to a therapist with experience in infertility. You'd be surprised; sometimes, it's easier to talk to a professional than your closest friends. There's so much value in having someone who just "gets it." In the meantime, we'll try to be that for you here at Co.
We've got the power
We were so surprised that there wasn't a fertility resource out there that kept it real and honest, and didn't bury fertility information among pregnancy or motherhood content. So, we decided to build it.
The more we talk about fertility, the more attention the issue of infertility will receive. And that, my friends, can actually affect real change. Like:
- Better medical coverage and benefits for infertility
- More scientific research
- Actual legislation, like state mandates for fertility coverage
- General openness and more emotional support for those with fertility challenges
So, let's talk—no, SCREAM—about infertility. Cause a commotion. Start that uncomfortable conversation. Say "hi" in that waiting room.
Get ready, because Co is here to talk about fertility. A lot. And we aren't going anywhere.
Arielle Spiegel is a Cofertility Co-Founder and Advisor. She previously founded the original CoFertility, a community and content platform that aimed to answer every fertility question, inspired by her own experience trying to conceive. She is incredibly passionate about starting the fertility conversation at an earlier age. Before founding CoFertility, Arielle spent several years in digital marketing at Victoria’s Secret PINK. She also led global social media activations for Coach and spent years agency-side, building social media strategies for various consumer brands. Today, Arielle lives in the Boston area with her husband, dog, and two miracle babies. She currently engages as a marketing strategy consultant for brands across industries.
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