Yesterday kicked off National Infertility Awareness Week. Here are a few informative tidbits:
- Medically speaking, infertility is the inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse; infertility is also diagnosed if a woman has multiple miscarriages.
- Infertility affects approximately 10% of the population.
- About 35% of infertility cases are due female problems; about 35% are due to male problems. Approximately 20% involve both male and female factors, and 10% of infertility cases have no known explanation.
- The varied causes that contribute to infertility include: endometriosis, structural abnormalities in the reproductive system, weak or no ovulation, thyroid imbalances, low sperm counts, sperm with poor motility or morphology, immune issues, blood clotting disorders, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and more. (This is why stories about your best friend's second cousin who finally got pregnant after seven years aren't helpful; the underlying reasons may be wildly different, so such stories don't provide any realistic encouragement.)
- Patients undergoing infertility treatments have been found to have rates of depression similar to those facing AIDS or cancer.
If you'd like to learn more about infertility, you can visit the website of the national fertility organization RESOLVE. They have a helpful section for family and friends of those who are having trouble conceiving, including articles like "How Can I Help?" and "Don't Tell Them to Relax (or What Not to Say)." They capture the experience of infertility pretty well (although some discernment is needed about the best Christian response). While I don't want to make infertility the issue that defines my life - that function belongs only to the gospel of Christ - this week seems like a good time to highlight the broader impact of this particular concern.
I'd also like to take the opportunity afforded by NIAW to thank all of my fertile friends who have been so supportive and compassionate during these past years. Though you may not understand all of the heartache, you have been so thoughtful and sympathetic and encouraging. I know you don't always know what to say, but you have all been so sensitive. I have rarely been the recipient of thoughtless, hurtful comments about infertility, and I am so grateful to such gracious friends!