Monday, August 5, 2013

circumstantial infertility

Friday was the first time I'd heard this term, when my boss sent me this article.

The author, Melanie Notkin, defines circumstantial infertility as "childlessness due to being without a partner." It's certainly an interesting and valuable concept: the idea that there are individuals who aren't living child free by choice; instead, they simply haven't found the right partner with which to parent children.

I feel for these individuals, because I understand what it's like to want to become a parent. Badly.

But this isn't infertility.

Not having children because you haven't found someone to help you procreate or haven't found an individual you want to raise children with isn't infertility. It doesn't mean you can't have children. It just means that the circumstances haven't worked out in your favor. It doesn't mean you're medically incapable of reproducing.

That would be infertility.

And this is the problem I have with society, the media, and this disease. We still, somehow, haven't gotten past the stigmas. That it only happens to couples who are older, because they waited too long to conceive. That IVF is a one-way ticket to a baby. That having a baby, regardless of how you do it, will "cure" your infertility. That it isn't a romance problem or a financial problem or a sociological problem. It's a MEDICAL problem.

By calling it "circumstantial infertility," we're doing a disservice to people who've actually been diagnosed with this disease. The people who've gone through the testing and who were told they are medically incapable. The people who've been through cancer or who have endometriosis or PCOS or the people who have blocked tubes or no sperm. The people who know for certain that their bodies are unable to produce or carry children.

I don't have any suggestions for an alternative term, but I do know this much: using the term "infertility" in this context is perpetuating the idea that it is NOT a disease - after we've spent years fighting for it to be recognized as one.

And I won't stand for it.


Audrey said...

I'm fist-pumping over here.

AZPartyMamma said...

just piggy backing off this concept a moment. What about same sex couples that need a third party and or reproductive technology to conceive?

dspence said...

I began using a similar term when I started blogging: situational infertility. I use it to describe a relationship where the couple is unable to conceive due to the nature of their relationship. This can include same-sex relationships or a relationship where one partner is sterile by choice (vasectomy or tubal ligation) yet both partners in the relationship wish to conceive. The latter is the nature of my infertility and has been a very validating label for my situation.

Katie said...

Interesting points, AZPartyMamma and dspence. I think that I've always considered both of those scenarios as being under the realm of infertility, because it's still a physical/medical reason. It's not for lack of trying - it's because two people are physically incapable of having children together.

Does that make sense?

It Is What It Is said...

It is NOT circumstantial infertility!

It may be circumstantial childlessness or situational childlessness, but this is a lifestyle circumstance, not a disease.

For f*ck's sake!

dspence said...

That def makes sense. In fact, I think the comment below of "circumstantial childlessness" is a good descriptor!

Rachel said...

I totally agree. I've heard this term before and it sort of makes me cringe. There is a big difference between the medical inability to have children without assistance and not having children because your situation made it less than desirable. That is called childless by chance. NOT infertility. But I do feel really horrible for any person who wants/wanted to be a parent and isn't able to have that experience. It's awful.