Fertility treatment milestone for Australia

by Candice Thum

This year fertility in Australia is 40 years old! 

In June it will officially be 40 years of iVFlings conceived and born in the country. Which means it is also my 40th birthday. Too bad if I wanted to keep that one quiet!

Since my conception and birth in 1980 there have been over 200,000 people born through assisted conception in Australia. Put in perspective that is about the population of Hobart, Tasmania or similar to the London Borough of Merton. It also means there is at least one child in every Australian classroom born though assisted reproductive techniques. That’s a lot of Aussie iVFlings making their mark on the world, and I love it.

We know fertility treatments have changed the world

Hope for the one-in-six couples who face fertility health obstacles is held in each of those 200,000 beating hearts. I look back now and marvel at how my parents must have felt when they received the phone call from Ian Johnston (lead at the Royal Women’s Hospital fertility team) to tell them they were pregnant. It was a miracle, and still is to each and every person who bravely faces fertility treatment.

Some of my best friends have faced their own fertility heartache and iVFling joys

Some of my own children’s best friends are fertility treatment miracles. I try not to get emotional about it, but I truly do. Perhaps it’s maturity, perhaps it’s motherhood, but knowing these kids, seeing them shine and standing by their parents when I know what they have all been through to become a family sits in a deeply emotional space for me. As do those who have not been so blessed.

Which is why I don’t totally mind sharing my midlife milestone with the fertility world. It is also an opportunity to advocate for better fertility health education too. A key part of what Fertility Matters Foundation intends on doing.

Officially now a Foundation, Fertility Matters (co-founded with fellow first-generation iVFling Rebecca Featherstone Jelenand) is helping deliver better education on fertility health to all and sundry, but especially our youth.

Research has recently revealed not only is the biological clock ticking, it is starting to beep alarmingly loudly for women in their 20s and 30s. It’s become such a point of anxiety for many that is has a name ‘Baby panic’ which is causing young women to, at the very least, lie awake worrying and at worst make decisions for their future fertility based on raw unprocessed emotion, fiction and an internalised sense of urgency.

The education to wrap around this hysteria is fraught. It’s alarmist and in many click-bait cases – just a wee bit fake

The big message from Fertility Matters is to get the right information on fertility health and fertility preservation into the heads of teenagers. Not only is it the right things to do but delivered in a fun way that doesn’t push them into making hasty decisions, means they have the time to process.

Despite the panic and media focus, fertility health is not just about that ticking clock. Fertility health is so much more.

The classroom rhetoric ‘don’t get pregnant’ is alive and well

Fertility Matters ambassador Liz Ellis explains;

I realised that growing up I received a lot of information about how to NOT fall pregnant, but when the time came for me to fall pregnant, I actually didn’t know that much.  Through the process of writing my book If At First You Don’t Conceive it became apparent to me how little most people – myself included – know about our fertility, how to look after it and when it starts to decline.

“Infertility is one of the toughest battles I had to fight.”

So, the classroom messages of “Don’t Get Pregnant”, “Don’t Have Sex” and “If you are having sex (tsk tsk) DEFINITELY use protection” (again, yes, we are big advocates of using protection) needs to evolve. We also need to tell the story one in six Australians are living.

Fertility health struggles are hard to overcome, fertility treatments are not a guarantee and we need to teach our young people to understand their bodies internal struggles better.

That is why, as I enter my 40th year, the message to my children and the rest of their generation is fertility is not just about sex and babies, it is so much more than that and you deserve to understand ALL of it.

Oh, and also, Happy Birthday to fertility in Australia!

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