National Infertility Awareness Week, May 15-21, 2011

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Infertility has dramatically increased in recent years. Today, one in six couples experiences fertility problems. Previously, only one in ten couples was affected.

Those dealing with infertility or suffering reproductive loss know that it can bring much heartache and grief.

In addition, infertility is a major life stressor which can lead to depression. Of the women struggling with infertility, one in five is clinically depressed.

The emotional response to infertility has been compared to that of a cancer diagnosis, a divorce or the death of a loved one.

Currently, not all causes of infertility, can be prevented or even treated, such as in the case of some inherited conditions. While some causes of infertility are treatable; many are not, at this point, and some are untreatable, such as those as a result of inherited conditions.

Factors affecting fertility, such as smoking, substance abuse, obesity, environmental toxins, when they are known and acted upon, may prevent infertility. Yet, little has been done in the area of prevention.

Prevention efforts must begin as early as the teen years. Certain choices that teens make and behaviours they adopt during their critically important formative and early fertile years can compromise their fertility and their chances for becoming parents later on in life. Educational initiatives that stress the importance of caring for reproductive health can be a major factor in preventing infertility.

Recently, the Centre for Reproductive Loss (Montreal) has taken such an initiative, targeting teens and young adults. This educational endeavour, known as the Reproductive Healthcare Options (RHO) project, promotes “fertility awareness” and “fertility appreciation.”

Teaching young people how to care for their reproductive health and to safeguard their fertility through “fertility monitoring” may prevent some causes of infertility as well as the heartache that it can bring.

During Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, May 15-21, 2011, it is imperative not only to raise awareness of infertility but also to become aware that fertility is a precious resource and, like the environment of which it is a part, needs and deserves to be recognized, valued, respected and protected.