We’re rounding out NIAW. I was hoping to bring some personal stories about infertility up this week. Between traveling, my master’s capstone, and other people living their lives and dealing with their illnesses, that didn’t happen.
In lieu of those, here is a roundup of articles and pieces on fertility:
It’s National Infertility Awareness Week. I wanted to share a variety of perspectives surrounding fertility. Luckily, Ness offered for me to repost this wonderful story of hers about donating her eggs. This post originally appeared at The Girl with the Five Lads and appears here with Ness’ permission.
Today there is a mother snuggling her children due to a decision I made over twelve years ago. Like many women, I made the decision to donate my eggs to help another woman have the right to feel the way I do. Being a mother is the most beautiful thing I have ever achieved in my life.
Egg donation offers new hope for a large number of women who previously thought they could never have children. For me, this would have devastated me knowing I could not become a mummy. All I longed to be as a small child was a wife and mum. Luckily for me conception was never a struggle, for some this brings such heartache for women who have lost their ovaries or the function of their ovaries whilst young. This could be because the ovaries have never developed properly, or because of cancer, surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy or, for a surprisingly large number of women, early menopause.
I was married at the time of donation and I already had three beautiful children. If I am totally honest my husband at the time did not like the idea of donation and never gave me his blessing but it was something I wanted to do. For him, it was odd and just not right.
In the past, people who donated sperm, eggs or embryos could choose to remain anonymous. Donors had to give identifying details for our Register, but these stayed confidential. Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, people could apply to find out if they were conceived using donated sperm, eggs or embryos. They could also check whether they were related to someone they wanted to marry, but they did not have the right to know who the donor was. April 2005 a new law came into effect, which allows people conceived through donations made after this date to find out who their donor was, once they reach 18.
I was given a small piece of card with a section only a few inches big to write a note to the child if every they decided to find out about the woman that gave their mum ingredients to make them. It was the most surreal moment, writing to an adult about why you donated eggs. I cannot remember what I wrote exactly but it was about me, my personality and that I gave the eggs with love so that their mum could feel the love of being a mother.
I can always remember being pregnant with my fourth son and the phone rang. It was Liverpool Women’s hospital to tell be that a baby had recently been born as a result of my eggs and a lady was pregnant with twins. They do not give you details other than that, I did not get told the sex, date of birth etc just that the parents had requested for the further eggs in storage for siblings. You can only have 10 live births regardless of donating 16 eggs. I put the phone down and cried, it was a happy feel good cry knowing a mum is now cuddling her baby and she once thought that moment was denied for her.
When you are told of the process for egg donation it appears very daunting. The side effects sound horrific and enough to put you off. If you were sat down with a health professional and the leaflet for a paracetamol was read out, the side effects, overdose dangers. Would you take a tablet so easily? That is all they are doing, by law, they have to give you every snippet of information so you make an informed consent.
Did it hurt?
No, you have to have a series of injections in the run up to extraction. Just a small thin needle, if you have had a blood test in the doctors, a tattoo or a piercing it is no worse as the needle is tiny in comparison.
Did you get all the horrible side effects from the medication?
No none at all, in fact, I felt better as I had no PMT. I asked the doctor could I not stay on the medication that switched off my ovaries as it was lovely having no PMT, but he laughed and said no.
Did the process of extracting the eggs hurt?
No more than a smear
How did you feel knowing the eggs are going to be babies but you are not the mother?
I felt honoured to have helped another woman.
If like many you have thought about being a donor but never got around to doing it or unsure how. Please have a think of all the women in the UK today that have to read endless facebook updates about mothers love. All you need to do is telephone your local maternity/women’s hospital tomorrow and ask them to put you through to the reproduction unit. It is that simple. I then got a pack through the post to read, then after reading there was a number to call if I still wanted to be a donor. You have an appointment with a nurse in the unit and it is all explained.
You have the power to change someone’s life forever.
Love, laughter and gentle hugs
The subject of kids is one that’s hard to talk about in chronic illness and disability communities. Part of it is the infantilization we as adults experience due to our conditions. Part of it is due to how difficult it may be to date. A lot of it has to do, though, with fertility and the ability to carry a fetus to term.
We disabled and ill are judged for trying to have children – and we are judged if we cannot.
Infertility is simply an umbrella term. What it means is that a heterosexual couple has been unable to conceive over the course of 6-12 months (depending on ages involved). It affects one of every eight couples.
Conditions that can affect fertility range from Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) to physical and hormonal issues to medication-related issues. Medications can make it difficult to conceive, whether for a specific time or longer. Many medications haven’t been observed in pregnancy and therefore have unknown risks to both parent and fetus in utero. Others, such as methotrexate, are known to be toxic for fetuses.
There are many ways to deal with infertility ranging from adoption and surrogacy to IVF and other fertility medications to living child-free. If people choose to go through IVF and other fertility treatments, these aren’t always covered by insurance. In fact, only 15 states mandate some sort of infertility treatment coverage. The ACA didn’t expand coverage requirements in this case – which is, frankly, a disappointment.
Living with infertility is costly.
If someone aims to have kids, they have to deal with medical appointments and the charges associated with IVF/infertility treatments.
Surrogacy is expensive, especially as it generally means the family pays for medical care for the surrogate.
Adoption is also incredibly expensive. Depending on illness/disability, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, relationship status, gender identity, or sexual orientation, it may be impossible to adopt. Denials are not rare, again especially for those of us with illnesses or disabilities.
Adoption is also incredibly expensive. Depending on illness or disability, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, relationship status, gender identity, or sexual orientation, it may be impossible to adopt. Denials are not rare, again especially for those of us with illnesses or disabilities.
The emotional toll infertility takes is horrendous. When we can’t conceive, it can make interacting with family difficult, whether that’s being asked when you’ll have kids or interacting with kiddos you may never have on your own. Hell, even being on social media can be taxing. Everyone posts cute pictures of their children. They don’t mean to trigger reminders of pain but inevitably do.
This can all take a terrible toll on our intimate relationships as well.
This week, Chronic Sex will focus on sharing resources and experiences of people dealing with infertility.
If you struggle with fertility issues, know that you aren’t alone. There are many resources that exist, such as RESOLVE: The National Infertility Awareness Association.
I’m heading to Chicago for the weekend for HealtheVoices 2017!
Chicago is one of my favorite places, so I’m excited to spend some time there with some of my favorite health activists in the entire world. It will also be great to see many of my Joint Decisions friends for the first time since our October summit.
Since I’m at the end of my master’s capstone writing, I may not get a recap up as quickly as I did last year. Still, I’m excited to be able to share things I learn with everyone else via the interwebs.
PS: Janssen is paying my travel expenses for this conference. All thoughts and opinions expressed here or on social media are my own and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Janssen or Johnson and Johnson.
I wrote about not one, but eight things you can do to make your downstairs happy as a clam over at Healthline.