It’s common for people who take the IVF route or use other methods of assisted reproduction not to want to talk openly about it. Even though the first IVF baby was born in 1978, many people still feel a stigma attached to conceiving a baby in ways other than through sexual intercourse. But there is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about, and explaining your situation to others and educating them might give you the extra support you need.

Common stigmas about trying to conceive

The IVF Network are here to address some of the common stigmas around trying to conceive. If you or someone you love is going through fertility treatment, it can be beneficial to understand the different viewpoints and emotions surrounding infertility. To avoid causing more stress and anxiety than they might already be feeling.

Fear of being less of a man or less of a woman

Some people don’t want to tell people about their infertility because they believe that others may view them as lesser. For men in particular, there is an associated assumption that virility is linked to fertility. Virility has no correlation to semen quality or reproductive health, and they are very different things.

Women can also have these feelings that others may see them as less of a woman if they are unable to conceive naturally, or they feel embarrassed about the ART (assisted reproductive techniques) process.

These feeling could not be further from the truth, going through IVF or other ART to conceive a child, shows strength, commitment, determination and an overwhelming desire to follow your dreams and become a parent, all admirable qualities.

Being private

People don’t tend to openly talk about how their child was conceived if it was through natural conception, so why would it be any different for those going through ART?

People may feel uncomfortable talking about going through IVF, out of a feeling of embarrassment, associated with some of the procedures they have had to go through.

It is up to each individual or couple if they want to tell their friends and family about their fertility plans, with many choosing not to tell their nearest and dearest until a healthy pregnancy occurs. Even then, the means by which the pregnancy happened is private. Do not feel forced to tell anybody of your fertility treatment, if this is something you want to keep private.

Avoiding awkward or embarrassing questions

People are naturally curious, and those who have been through ART might want to avoid a barrage of questions. It is not that they feel ashamed of their infertility, but this is a private subject that many don’t wish to be quizzed on.

Being asked probing personal questions about the IVF process can also drag up intense emotions. Not telling anyone is a way of side-stepping the possibility of these these emotions being dragged up, especially if your fertility journey has been long and stressful. It can be comforting to remember that these questions come from a caring and inquisitive place, but we know that this doesn’t make having to answer them any easier.

Those who choose not to talk openly about their treatments, have their own reasons, but getting a better understanding of some common fears and concerns surrounding infertility and fertility treatments can help your loved ones understand and empathise with your experience.

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Family first

Some individuals or couples may want to wait until their child is old enough to understand natural conception before they talk to them about being conceived through IVF. Talking about it openly runs the risk of their child hearing something from others, that is inappropriate for their age or understanding. Some parents may decide that they would never want to have the conversation and that their child would never need to know, others choose to tell their child from a very young age.

Those considering ART after getting pregnant naturally at least once before, but are now experiencing secondary or unexplained infertility, might be waiting to tell their children at the right time.

Religious, community or traditional beliefs

‍In some faiths, ART has been viewed as wrongful and so they want to protect themselves and their child from hurtful or judgemental comments. Some people can hold hurtful beliefs without realising that they are upsetting people, due to how they have been brought up or their own out-dated beliefs and approach. Some people might want to keep their fertility problems private.

‍It’s important to remember that whether to talk about it or not, is entirely down to personal choice and the rights of the individual or couple. What matters most, is not how a child was conceived, but how much they are loved, cared for and treasured.

General health

Discussing your fertility treatments may open up more questions about health and lifestyle, that they do not want to answer.

As an example those that have undergone cancer treatments may struggle with infertility. Chemotherapy can damage reproductive health, leading people to freeze their eggs or sperm. In the hope they will be able to get pregnant with ART if getting pregnant naturally is not an option for them.

Patient couple consulting with doctor or psychologist on family men and women’s medical healthcare therapy, In vitro fertility IVF treatment for infertility, or STD sexual health concept

Reason for infertility

Understanding why people struggle to get pregnant can give a better insight into the fertility problems. Fertility is the ability for a sperm to fertilise an egg to create an embryo.

Infertility is when a couple has problems trying to conceive after trying for a year of having regular unprotected sex. This is a common issue that affects around 1 in 7 couples. Those experiencing infertility may experience chronic stress. Infertility can be draining, emotionally, physically and financially. Being mindful and well informed can help, when those around you are experiencing infertilit

Female fertility

Female fertility is linked to all parts of the reproductive system. The menstrual cycle, medical conditions and a woman’s uterus all affect fertility for females.

Having regular menstrual cycles is important for the fertilisation of an egg, so identifying ovulation problems is important. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can cause irregular ovulation and therefore cause problems with fertility.

Scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterine wall can be caused by uterine fibroids, endometriosis and sexually transmitted infections. This prevents the egg from implanting on the uterine wall, therefore causing infertility.

Learn More -Ask the Expert: Gynaecology and Fertility: Expert Insights

Male infertility and fertility issues. Couple sitting on sofa and embracing. Fertility problems and not getting pregnant. Male infertility and male fertility.

Male fertility

Male infertility is usually due to issues concerning sperm health and sperm quality or sperm delivery. Some common issues include, low sperm count, poor sperm motility (movement) or morphology (shape) or other sperm disorders. Erectile dysfunction can be linked to underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, depression and high blood pressure.

Lifestyle factors, such as heavy drinking and body weight. These can negatively impact the ability to maintain an erection, sperm production and sperm count. Having healthy lifestyle choices and an improvement to general health can positively impact fertility

Learn More – Male Infertility with Jonathan Ramsay, Male Fertility Specialist

LGBT fertility

‍LGBT fertility

Many LGBT couples who want to have a biological connection to their child, will have to have some form of fertility treatment. This may be intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF), surrogacy , a donor for sperm or egg.

For trans people, they may have undergone hormone therapy which impacts the fertility hormone levels. Prior to hormone treatment there is the option to freeze eggs or sperm, to be used later in life for fertility.

Learn More – The journey to parenthood for LGBTQ+

What to do when you can’t get pregnant naturally?

IVF and other forms of ART provide an amazing opportunity for people to become parents, who otherwise may have remained childless. It’s because of the wonderful advances in medical science that this has become possible. Contact your healthcare provider or a fertility specialist to book in for fertility tests and learn more about the different options available.

How to deal with struggling to get pregnant?

You can seek support from counsellors to help you to come to terms with the way infertility may have impacted you and your life. Here at the IVF Network, we provide information, support and advice for individuals and couples who are dealing with infertility. We do this through our dedicated channel of experts, broadcasts and blogs, to help you to make more informed choices on your own personal journey.

Join Our Community

Here at IVFN, we strive to use language that respects everyone’s identity and experiences. When we use terms like ‘man’ or ‘woman,’ we’re referring to an individual’s sex assigned at birth, recognising that not everyone identifies with their biological sex. We want to create a welcoming space for everyone, whether you identify as a man, woman, gender non-binary, gender non-specific, or in any other way that feels right for you. We’re committed to inclusivity and diversity, and we’re always open to feedback on how we can improve and better represent all individuals. Your input is valuable, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any suggestions to make IVFN more inclusive and representative of your experiences.