Words Matter: Bringing Fertility Terminology Up to Date
Every National Infertility Awareness Week, we like to reflect upon the true meaning of “infertility awareness”. All year, we take every chance we get to increase awareness of infertility in an effort to provide proactive fertility education and de-stigmatize all paths to parenthood.
This is important because infertility can feel incredibly isolating due to lack of openness and understanding from the general public. While infertility does not discriminate, it often catches its victims off guard. Due to a lack of awareness (or just a lack of acceptance), we’re taught from an early age that getting pregnant is easy. In reality, this isn’t the case for everyone — one in four American couples struggle to conceive — and the additional stigmatization of infertility just kicks those suffering from it while they’re down.
We’re here to change that. Myself and my co-founders all experienced challenging journeys to build our families, and we know, first-hand, that words matter. So this National Infertility Awareness Week, we’re proposing a vocabulary overhaul when it comes to outdated and straight-up offensive fertility terminology.
Here are several fertility terms we commonly hear — in doctor’s offices, news articles, and more — that we think need to be replaced:
- “Insurance policy” → optionality: when a woman decides to freeze her eggs, she's giving herself optionality should she experience fertility challenges down the line. While Cofertility’s mission with Freeze by Co is to enable more proactive, empowering egg freezing, we are always transparent about the fact that egg freezing is never an insurance policy.
- Poor sperm quality → sperm-related challenges: when a man experiences low sperm count or motility, or irregular morphology that may result in an unsuccessful fertilization or pregnancy. The same can apply to “poor egg quality,” and we support a similar change to reference egg-related challenges.
- Inhospitable uterus → uterine challenges: when uterine conditions, like endometriosis, cause difficulty getting or staying pregnant.
- Poor ovarian reserve → diminished ovarian reserve: when a woman’s egg count is lower than average for her age.
Egg donation and surrogacy
- Donor mother/parent → egg donor: the woman who donated her eggs to fertilize an embryo resulting in a child is an egg donor. The intended parents are that child’s parents, full stop.
- Surrogate mother → gestational carrier: Similar to “donor mother,” a gestational carrier, while doing an amazing thing (carrying the pregnancy of a transferred embryo using another woman’s egg) is not that child’s mother. Gestational carriers are incredible, but should not be confused with a child’s actual parents.
- Anonymous egg donation → non-identified egg donation: we believe anonymous egg donation is a thing of the past — not only can it have negative effects upon donor-conceived children, it’s also unrealistic with the rise of consumer genetic testing. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recently recommended this lexicon replacement as well. At Cofertility, we discuss the concept of disclosure at length with all donors and intended parents. You can read more about our stance on “anonymous” egg donation here.
- Buying eggs → matching with an egg donor: No one involved in this process should feel like eggs are being bought or sold (that goes for the egg donor, the intended parents, and the donor-conceived person). Rather, working with an egg donor is a beautiful way of growing a family and should feel the opposite of transactional.
- “Using” an egg donor → working with/matching with an egg donor: An egg donor should feel like a perfect fit with your family and someone who should be respected, not “used”. Our unique model — where women can freeze their eggs for free when they donate half of the eggs retrieved to another family — honors everyone involved. Learn more here!
- Spontaneous abortion → pregnancy loss: Honestly, this term is beyond cruel given what it describes — losing a pregnancy prior to 20 weeks.
- Implantation failure → unsuccessful transfer: When an IVF embryo transfer doesn’t result in a success, that doesn’t mean it — or your body — was a failure.
- Chemical pregnancy → early pregnancy loss: Calling a pregnancy “chemical” discredits what it actually is — a pregnancy. And losing it should be categorized as such.
Let’s hold ourselves accountable
During National Infertility Awareness Week, consider this our rally cry for evolved terminology around the #ttc process. We’ll plan to hold ourselves accountable, but beyond talking the talk, we aim to walk the walk.
Our goal is to make the actual family-building process more positive and accessible for anyone pursuing third party reproduction. With Family by Co, all egg donors give half of their eggs retrieved to intended parents and freeze the other half for themselves for free to preserve some of their own fertility for the future. This way, they’re able to give a life-changing gift, but also consider their own ambitions and lifestyle choices. We feel this is significantly more ethical than other donation options out there, and our intended parents love the transparent nature of our platform.
Let’s challenge each other to evolve the surrounding verbiage. Because the family-building process should feel as good as possible, in spite of challenges along the way.
Cofertility is a human-first fertility ecosystem rewriting the egg freezing and egg donation experience. Our Family by Co platform serves as a more transparent, ethical egg donor matching platform. We are obsessed with improving the family-building journey — today or in the future — and are in an endless pursuit to make these experiences more positive. Create a free account today!