As the dust begins to settle on #relaxgate - you know the one where Dr Hilary Jones of the ITV show Lorraine told a lady who had been through multiple rounds of IVF to, “just relax and it will happen,” and then seemingly didn’t understand what he’d done and posted a non-apology on Twitter. I got to thinking about how the general public even stand a chance when people like him, so called ‘experts in the field’, get it so very wrong…on live TV.
Recently someone said an off-handed and (meant to be) funny comment to me about how they’d like to “do a bit of IVF and get a week’s rest”. This person is retired with children and a grandchild - I literally have no idea what they think they need to rest from. Nor how anyone with any sense can think that this is an appropriate thing to say to someone on their fifth IVF two week wait (the part after embryo transfer and before pregnancy test). Ignorance is an easy excuse.
But surely we can’t excuse Dr Hilary’s comments as just ignorance?
A few months ago I told a work associate that I would be away from work for a week or two, having IVF treatment. She acknowledged and our conversation moved on to the topic of summer holidays; I said it would be nice to get away with my husband this year, somewhere hot.
Her response floored me.
She said that maybe if we got away on holiday and relaxed we’d get pregnant naturally and wouldn’t need the treatment.
Well, actually no. Because you see, going away on holiday and relaxing won’t grow my husband his Vas Deferens (the tubes which take the sperms from the testicles to the outside of the body), which is the reason we can’t conceive naturally.
The more I thought about what she’d said, the more I came to realise that she assumes two things about our infertility 1) it’s on my side 2) if I just relaxed and had some fun it would be fixed.
Neither of these assumptions are actually true.
But what chance does she have when the media is full of people like Dr Hilary, telling women on live TV to ‘relax’. When everyone knows someone’s neighbours niece who tried IVF for five years and got knocked up the week they decided to stop and went to the Costa Brava?!
Real life isn’t like that, at all.
Most infertility cannot be fixed with a week of fun and frolicking in Spain.
And people need to understand this so they can stop giving out bad advice. My work colleague had no idea of the reasons for our fertility issues and yet it was there, as plain as day, she was accusing me. Accusing me of being a stress-head and the entire reason why we cannot have children.
I can tell you how wonderful that made me feel. Not.
Over the last eighteen months I have tried my hardest to raise awareness of what women and couples go through on an infertility journey, of what lies ahead, and of the stark truth that sometimes this treatment does not work and a different life has to be accepted.
But it’s not enough, I’m not shouting loud enough.
Someone has to take responsibility for this misinformation in the media and start to actually paint a realistic picture of what is happening. It may not prevent all the insensitive comments but it may stop people believing that all infertility warriors are just anxious women who need to calm the hell down and they’d get preggers.
Because this is not the case.
A third of infertility is usually found to be on the female side yes, a third is found to be male infertility factor and a third is as yet, unexplained. Therefore, you can’t assume anything about anyone’s fertility journey, they are all so unique.
We must stop telling women to go on holiday and relax. Instead tell them to research, get help, find a tribe of people going through what they are, find support, be empathetic towards them and most of all don’t be dismissive. Infertility has been re-categorised as a disease by the American Medical Association and we all need to start recognising it as one. You wouldn’t tell a cancer patient to ‘just relax and everything will be ok’, you wouldn’t advise someone with kidney failure, to go on holiday and maybe their blood with have cleaned itself.
We need to stop telling infertility victims inappropriate things!
Especially on live TV.