Written by Ashley Hunt, LCSW
“Nothing is wrong with it. Having that energy towards your body, those kinds of inner thoughts can def[initely] play a role.”
These are the kinds of responses women receive when they struggle with infertility. When they open their hearts to their inner circle and question why their bodies will not cooperate with their efforts; they get told that their thoughts are to blame. They get not-so-subtle condemnations that proclaim they have brought infertility onto themselves. They get blamed.
In society, women are often told that they are responsible for their unfortunate circumstances. When abused by a partner, they’re told it was something that they said. When sexually assaulted, they get told it was something that they wore. When they are single, they are told it is something about who they are. And when they are infertile, they are told it is due to something they ate, something they did not eat, something they thought, something they feared, an exercise they did, an exercise they did not do, the pill they took, the pill they missed, the diet they tried, the diet they did not try; and it goes on and on and on. The list of ways in which society declares that women have “contributed” to their own infertility is endless and cruel. Cruel in its misplacement and inaccuracy.
Infertility is a complex topic that is navigated with educated guessing. In speaking with fertility experts that have been in the field for years, they can only surmise about what has contributed to an infertility diagnosis; they cannot definitively identify what caused an individual woman’s specific plight. Reproductive Endocrinologists are akin to mad scientists, changing and adjusting medication protocols in search of the best formula for this specific body. No two protocols are exactly alike, just as no two bodies are exactly alike. Although much science goes into reproductive health, most of it feels largely to chance. And chance is the door through which which blame is welcomed to walk through.
Those who are lucky enough to have never dealt with infertility may not understand that a woman with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) has a hormonal imbalance that directly impacts reproductive outcomes. They do not understand that women with endometriosis struggle with endometrium growth on their reproductive organs. They do not understand that women, such as myself, who have Decreased Ovarian Reserve (DOR) are combating a decrease in the quality or quantity of eggs remaining in their ovaries. Most individuals that have not struggled with infertility, have either never heard of these conditions; and if they have, they do not actually know what these conditions are. Society at large is not aware of the several infertility diagnoses that exist, beyond the aforementioned. Yet instead of turning to research, society does a quick search of homeopathic remedies on a random social media page and then tells women with infertility that they are not doing something right; even if they are unsure of what that something is. The assumption is that science in the 21st century is so advanced, biology cannot be to blame; many assume that all conditions can be corrected.
This is not to say that there are no benefits to homeopathic remedies; acupuncture has been shown to positively impact fertility outcomes. However, it must be remembered that acupuncture, yoga, Chinese medicines, teas, and herbs are additional ways to treat infertility conditions; they are not guaranteed remedies or replacements for all reproductive surgeries and medications. The human body is fascinatingly complex and offering simple solutions and quick fixes undermines the true miracle of human reproduction.
So instead of Googled “infertility remedies”, try to offer support rather than judgement. Offer a listening ear that is tolerant of duality; one that understands a woman can be distressed and hopeful, that she can feel inadequate and still be determined. Remind yourself that she likely has done a ton more research on infertility than you ever have; and rather than offer solutions, ask her what she needs. When she’s voicing self-doubt and anger at her body, remind her that she and her body are doing the best that they can. Allow her to fall apart, learn how to tolerate her pain and her tears; your discomfort does not come close to what she is trying to manage emotionally. When unsure of what to say, offer grace and encourage space for it in her life. Be aware of your words and remove all traces of blame from your vocabulary. Infertility is an ugly, vicious, unpredictable, and cruel beast for anyone to deal with; the woman fighting infertility does not need you to align yourself with it through your words.