Flaunting it at major fertility industry conference, by Candice Thum

The crusade continues to improve fertility health education for young Australians

Late last year Fertility Matters hit the fertility conference circuit with an exhibition booth at the annual Fertility Society of Australia conference.

Attending was in equal parts exhilarating and daunting. This conference is the headline act of the professional fertility world in Australasia, with thousands from the industry attending and exhibitors from major international companies, research and developments centers, and merchandise providers.

Early on it was clear Rebecca and I were very new to this type of event. Even raising the funds to cover our minimal flights and accommodation to Adelaide took the best part of a year. And right up until the final hour we had no furniture for our booth or posters to promote our fertility health and education awareness campaign.

But they say timing is everything.

This could not have been truer for us. In the end we managed to find sponsors (thanks Illumina) to cover our most basic costs. An image overhaul from final year design students at University of Technology, Sydney resulted in the hippest of posters and handouts, and a flash new website launch the day of the conference.

Essentially Fertility Matters was at the conference to raise profile and garner support for our online petition calling for across the board updates to the national curriculum on fertility health. We also wanted to test the waters with the industry impacted the most on changes in fertility health education.

With a furnished booth at the back of the hall we waited anxiously for fertility industry leaders, nurses, counselors, scientists, advocates and even accountants to approach. Soon we were swamped with interest and intrigue from conference goers. A plug from FSA president at his opening speech helped, but people genuinely wanted to hear more about Fertility Matters. For three days Rebecca and I answered questions from all members of the fertility industry on all types of fertility related content. We met ‘fans’ of our social media, we were handed a growing stack of business cards, we struggled to take breath and finish our coffees.  Initially we had intended to attend a number of keynote speeches, but we literally ran out of time.

Of all the questions asked, the most commonly fielded enquiry about our campaign related to funding. “Who funds this?” “Where does the money come from?”

When, in honest reply, we would shrug our shoulders and say despite all our best efforts Fertility Matters was not funded, had no money, and in fact we were not paid at all, people stood mouths gaped open.

It is no secret that in order for Fertility Matters to reach the next milestone in creating an education resource package approved by the educators and health industry it needs funding. As iVFlings we know why this is important, what shocked us at FSA was how deep the support for better education ran. Scraping our resources together to attend the conference was difficult, but paid off. The success story for Fertility Matters is that as a result some minimal funding has now been approved by Merck to create the resources we hope to circulate through Australian secondary schools.

Being an iVFling is a part of my life, but it has never defined me.

In fact there are times when it blindsides me. Sometimes it is even humorous.  For example, my brother recently sent me this image while playing Trivial Pursuit with some mates.

It is difficult to imagine that anyone would know this fact or find it interesting.

For my brother, it was his crowning Trivial Pursuit glory. But the reality for one-in-six is no laughing matter. And for that reason, Fertility Matters will continue to advocate and make a change.  Perhaps this year we may even make it to the front of the conference exhibition hall.

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