The place of feminism in the world of fertility
In the aftermath of the world wide, women's movement that took place in various cities across the globe last Saturday, many were left feeling emboldened and a little bit more hopeful about the future.
Yet in the midst of all these powerful, female voices (as well as many supportive male voices too), there were those that felt understandably saddened and disappointed, to think that it had really come to this.
These actions did not arise simply because an orange faced, misogynistic, dictatorial leader was taking over Americas highest office. It was just the straw that broke the camel's back.
The current discourse taking place in the media about women's equality, in all its various forms, has led me to contemplate the many conversations I've had with women over the years, about their fertility struggles and whether their own voices had been truly heard, or how often they had felt dictated to.
"Your eggs are poor quality and you could be peri-menopausal, so you should consider egg donation...."
This statement is no exaggeration. Unfortunately, I have consulted with many women who heard these words after visiting a fertility clinic, even when there wasn't sufficient evidence to back up such a hurtful claim.
For example, I recall a previous patient (38), who had been told that because her sister went through the menopause early, she would too, so she may as well move straight on to egg donation as trying to conceive with her own eggs would be a waste of time. Thankfully, she didn't take this advice to heart and went on to conceive her son naturally and without the need for any donor egg or IVF treatment.
Speaking to a woman in this way, when she is trying to conceive is utterly, soul destroying. It results in a very pessimistic outlook, that I believe has an extremely negative impact on that particular woman's fertility potential.
All too often, a woman will come in to consult with me and she'll go through a litany of things that are wrong with her, telling me for the fifth time that she is now 40 and did I know how low her odds of success were at that age, all the while, her partner doesn't even get a mention.
When I try to bring it up, I will commonly be told 'oh sure, he's fine, the sperm were tested ages ago and there were no problems, the issue is with me'.
Don't second guess yourself!
In the world of fertility treatment, it is so important to make your voice heard. This isn't just a situation borne out of predominantly male consultants 'lecturing' women about their fertility, this is a wide spread issue in our society.
Thankfully, we are not the worst when it comes to considering the male contribution to fertility issues. In the UAE for example, men are so reluctant to have any investigations to assess their sperm quality that couples often go childless, rather than face up to the real issue, that it is the man, not the woman who requires treatment.
In Ireland, while the situation is improving, I'm still amazed at how many women/couples sit down and tell me that they have been through multiple unsuccessful IVF cycles or indeed recurrent miscarriage, yet the only investigation the male has had is a basic semen analysis.
No further assessment of the sperm quality was made and in some cases, even the semen analysis was years out of date, in spite of the fact that sperm are made afresh on a daily basis so any testing has to be conducted within the previous 3-4 month to provide an accurate assessment of the males fertility potential.
This isn't a blame game
Fertility issues are extremely challenging. It's tough on your relationship, tough on your wallet and tough on your sanity!
Therefore, all the more reason to approach the situation as a team and ensure that investigations are equally apportioned to both the male, as well as the female.
Support one another and communicate openly, so that any emotions such as guilt or resentment are not allowed to fester. That way, you can move on to the next phase of your conception attempts or fertility treatment, with full knowledge of the facts.
I have dealt with many situations where the man discovered his sperm were the issue and in the vast majority of these cases, they followed their protocol diligently and were able to make significant improvements to the sperm health within a relatively short amount of time.
Equally, those women, who were sold the story of 'doom and gloom' and were told that IVF or indeed, egg donation was their only option because of their 'poor quality eggs' were able to beat those odds and go on to conceive without invasive treatment.
Above all else, trust in your instincts and if you feel that your thoughts and concerns are being dismissed, then speak up and demand the respect and medical care that you deserve.