National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 is April 21st-27th.
It doesn’t have to be National Infertility Awareness Week to bring awareness to an issue that is important to you. Head to the bottom of the page for a free printable PDF and for 3 simple steps you can take to bring awareness to your own community.
The theme for NIAW as determined by RESOLVE.org is #InfertilityUncovered, uncovering the truth about infertility because it does not discriminate. Infertility can affect people of any age, size, race, gender, religion, location, economic status, family medical history, personal medical history, or current health status. Infertility looks different for everyone, and everyone experiencing infertility looks different.
RESOLVE says on their NIAW landing page, “Together, we can change how others view infertility.” So I started wondering, How do others view infertility? When I really thought about it, I realized people don’t view infertility at all. They don’t see it. They don’t realize it’s an issue. How can we expect our community to support us if they don’t see us falling? How can we expect them to know what we need if they don’t even see that we have a need?
This year, I’m doing something different. I’m still sharing all things infertility and miscarriage on my little corner of Instagram, but I’ve decided to bring awareness to a community that is not yet aware: my church.
My church is a loving, close-knit congregation– a good size for a small town and still growing. When I talked to the pastor about wanting to provide information to the congregation about the struggles of infertility in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, he said he had no idea how prevalent the issue was. This man is incredibly involved in his congregation; he knows everyone by name, yet he was surprised when I shared that I knew several members of the church I had only attended for 6 months had been touched by infertility.
We agreed I could create an insert for the weekly bulletin handout. This was even better than my original idea of creating a fact sheet to have available at the back corner table! I was SO excited for this opportunity because it meant EVERYONE was going to get a copy. And then the challenge: space. What would infertility sufferers want the general population to know about such an intimate and invasive part of their lives? What aspects of infertility were worthy of a fraction of the space provided on the half-sheet bulletin insert?
When I took a moment to clear my mind of all I knew from years of infertility and miscarriage and thought about it from the perspective of someone who knew absolutely nothing about it, I was shocked. It broke my heart all over again to realize how common infertility is and how deeply it impacts every aspect of a sufferer’s life. Below, I share the points I compiled after asking input from the online infertility community. You can print them out and share them with your own church!
Get Involved with these 3 steps:
- Take a few minutes to talk to your church leader about how infertility affects you and why it’s important to you to bring awareness to the issue. (You can even bring the fact sheet below with you to your conversation!)
- Ask your church leader if you can make a fact sheet (download below) available to the congregation. This could be in several forms: as an announcement hung where everyone can see it, as a copy available at an information/welcome table within your church’s sanctuary or entryway, or even as an insert into the weekly bulletin or sermon notes!
- Print copies of the PDF document (found below) or email it to a church leader to make enough copies for everyone!
Head to the bottom of the page for a PDF printout you can print and share with your own church, already formatted and ready to print double-sided. Here are the points included on the printable:
1 in 8 couples in the US struggle with infertility (1 in 6 in Canada!) Most suffer in silence.
Infertility is the inability to conceive within 12 months. Secondary infertility (infertility following the birth of one or more biological children) accounts for 1/3 of infertility cases.
Infertility does not discriminate. It looks different for everyone, and everyone experiencing it looks different. It affects men and women equally but is often regarded as a female issue.
Common emotions experienced by infertility sufferers are fear, shame, guilt, isolation, anxiety, depression, worthlessness, anger, desperation, and grief. These feelings often continue even if pregnancy is achieved and well beyond the birth of a child.
Stress studies have found the stress of infertility comparable to that of cancer.
Infertility is a disease. Physical causes of infertility include PCOS, endometriosis, varicocele, hormone imbalance, uterine abnormalities, cancer or cancer medication, PID, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders, and blood clotting disorders.
Infertility is expensive. Most insurances will cover diagnostic testing but not treatment.
Only about 5% of couples struggling with infertility go onto use IVF. Other treatment options include medicated cycles, IUIs, and a variety of surgeries. No treatment guarantees success.
Some sufferers may be diagnosed with PTSD or experience PTSD symptoms including flashbacks, physiological reactions to triggers, persistent negative beliefs about oneself or the world, detachment from others, episodes of irritability or aggression, and sleep disturbances.
There are several accounts of infertility in the Bible. “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly” 1 Sam 10. Hannah describes herself as deeply troubled, “praying here out of my great anguish and grief” v. 16. “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’” Gen 30:1. Others who struggled to conceive were Elizabeth, Sarah, Rebekah, Manoah’s wife (Jdg 13), and the Shunammite woman in 2 Ki 4.
If you wouldn’t say it about a diabetes or cancer diagnosis, please don’t say it to a loved one who is suffering with infertility. “Just relax,” “Everything happens for a reason,” “Be grateful for what you have,” “I know how you feel,” and any comments beginning with “At least” or “Have you tried,” feel hurtful, triggering, and dismissive. God gives us space for grief and lament. “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” Ecc 3:4. A good place to start is, “I’m so sorry. I’m here for you. What do you need from me?”
As you can imagine, it was really hard to fit all things infertility onto one half-sheet of paper. Here are a few more important facts that didn’t quite make the cut but that I find equally astounding:
Only one-third of couples have difficulty conceiving due to female factors. Another one-third have trouble due to male factors, and the final one-third of couples suffer from unexplained or combined infertility.
Some infertility sufferers do choose to pursue adoption, but it does not “fix” their infertility, and it is certainly not an easy route. Adoption is not right for everyone, and it must be something the couple feels called to do. Many parents who are led to adoption through their struggles with infertility continue to yearn for biological children.
A single miscarriage increases a couple’s chances of divorce by 22 percent. Currently, one in four women (25%) experience a miscarriage. One in 100 women (1%) experience recurrent pregnancy loss (at least 2+ consecutive losses or three total pregnancy losses.)
Infertility can impact all aspects of life including relationships (with partner, family, friends, and coworkers), body image/self-esteem, faith, world-view, and finances.
What do you think? What do YOU think is the most important thing for others to know about infertility?