Don’t ignore infertility. April 22-28 is National Infertility Awareness Week. This year we are trying to raise awareness by talking about not ignoring the disease infertility. I don’t know how many people read this blog that haven’t had to battle infertility, but I think a lot of the world doesn’t know that infertility is a disease. My husband doesn’t even think it is a disease.
Is infertility really a disease? How do you define disease? When I think of disease I think of sickness. I think of being unable to perform daily activities. I think of diabetes, cancer, measles, strep throat, the flu, heart disease. You think of things that can kill you or are painful or make your life physically miserable.
A disease is defined as any deviation from or interruption of the normal function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms. So diabetes is a disease because the pancreas does not function as it should, and it is manifested by symptoms like rising blood sugar, fatigue and irritability. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disease, in which the pancreas puts out too much insulin, and the ovaries take in that insulin and a result make cysts and fail to produce eggs. You can take this definition and apply it to any known illness or disease and it will fit those criteria. So is infertility a disease? The World Health Organization defines infertility as “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.”
Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. The reproductive system is one of the systems of the body. When it does not function properly the symptoms can be lack of ovulation, lack of sperm production, production of sperm that is not viable, or failure to produce the correct hormones to carry a pregnancy to term. Does infertility cause physical pain? Endometriosis, which can cause infertility, is painful, but infertility by itself doesn’t cause physical pain. Is infertility likely to kill you? The reproductive system is the only body system that you can live without. But infertility is still a disease even though it won’t kill you and doesn’t cause physical pain.
We don’t ignore diabetes or heart disease, should we ignore infertility? Infertility is an earth shattering diagnosis to receive for a couple that wants a baby. It hurts emotionally and there is no cure for it. Do you have children? Think about how much you love your children. Imagine not having those beautiful babies… can you? Infertility needs to be recognized and should no longer be ignored, pushed under the carpet or stigmatized. One of the first steps for that is bringing it out into the open, and accepting that it is a real disease. Can you accept that it is a disease?
The links below have more information about infertility and NIAW.
- http://www.resolve.org/infertility101 (Basic understanding of the disease of infertility.)
- http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html (About NIAW)