Did you know that 1 in 8 couples struggle to have children and build their families due to the disease of infertility? This statistic represents a colleague, a friend in your book club, a couple at your Thanksgiving dinner table. Having infertility can feel embarrassing and isolating, but you can help your friends feel less misunderstood and alone by resolving to know more about infertility this week, during National Infertility Awareness Week®.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW), a movement that began in 1989 with the goal of raising awareness about the disease of infertility and to encourage the public to understand their reproductive health.
What is infertility?
Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. One third (30%) of infertility can be attributed to male factors, and about one third (30%) can be attributed to female factors. In about 20% of cases infertility is unexplained, and the remaining 10% of infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive. If you are over the age of 35, the time of trying to conceive is reduced to 6 months. It is important to see a specialist, or a reproductive endocrinologist, or in some cases your OB/GYN or urologist for a complete fertility work-up and diagnosis.
What is National Infertility Awareness Week and why is it important?
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association founded this movement and continues to work with the professional family building community, corporate partners, and the media to:
- Ensure that people trying to conceive know the guidelines for seeing a specialist when they are trying to conceive;
- Enhance public understanding that infertility is a disease that needs and deserves attention; and
- Educate legislators about the disease of infertility and how it impacts people in their state.
Since National Infertility Awareness Week began 25 years ago in 1989, there have been significant advances in medical and information technology, expanding the medical options available to infertile people to conceive a child, the ways in which they gather information about their infertility diagnosis and family building options, and how they seek support. Although more options are available to people trying to conceive a child and more widespread information about the option of adoption inspires hope, reaching a family building resolution has become more difficult. “What has not changed is the fact that going through infertility is an emotional crisis. Now there are even more choices that both an individual and their partner, if they have one, have to agree on,” remarked Diane Clapp, BSN,RN, former medical information director, RESOLVE.
In addition, the general public has inadequate knowledge about what infertility is, making it difficult for people with infertility to receive the support and acknowledgement from friends and family. Think about if your friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to make a decision about what medical treatment to receive. You would understand the severity of the diagnosis, the decision, and the emotional impact. A person struggling with infertility needs the same type of support and understanding from his or her friends and family.
So what can you do?
This issue seems big, but there are a lot of small things you can do that will go a long way.
- See what your state’s infertility grade is by utilizing the recently updated Fertility Scorecard.
- Be there for your friends and family – learn 25 Things To Say (and Not To Say) to Someone Living with Infertility.
- Learn more about infertility from experts in the field who discuss what has, and hasn’t changed, in the past 25 years for people with infertility.
- Help raise awareness – check out 25 ways you can raise awareness.
- Support the infertility movement – learn about 25 ways to support the infertility movement.
- Follow the movement on social media.
RESOLVE hopes that as public awareness about infertility and access to care improves, people with infertility will be more prepared for their infertility journey and they will have the resources they need to feel more supported, both by their community and by legislation that gives them access to care they would receive for any other medical disease, helping them feel less isolated. At RESOLVE, we are fighting for the whole infertility community and are committed to ensuring that everyone diagnosed with infertility has the support and information they need to reach their family building resolution.
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association