Posted February 17, 2017
Anyone who has gone through infertility treatment knows how intense the process can be. Like every aspect of our lives, there are some people who prefer to share their experiences and others who like to be more private. I often ask my new patients if they know anyone who has struggled with infertility or gone through fertility treatment. Some have a very close friend or family member who has experienced infertility and know many of the details. But it’s also not uncommon for them to say they don’t know anyone or they have very limited details. Since infertility affects roughly 1 in 8 couples, virtually everyone has a good friend, relative or co-worker who has experienced it. Like any other disease (infertility was recently designated a disease by the World Health Organization http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/infertility/definitions/en/ ), most couples who achieve a pregnancy after fertility treatment want to move forward with their lives and not dwell on their infertility.
The same goes for celebrities. We have treated many celebrities in different fields and most of them just want to move on with building their families and get back to their normal lives. They may not want to dwell on the very personal details of their treatment. That doesn’t mean that they’re embarrassed or ashamed. It just means it’s private and they may not want to share this information with the whole world.
Lately, I have seen many posts and comments on social media disparaging Beyoncé for not discussing her suspected fertility treatment to achieve twins. Some have even been critical that she didn’t utilize and publicize single embryo transfer to avoid twins, rather than glamorize this high risk type of pregnancy. While rare, twins do happen naturally. It’s really no one’s business how Beyoncé conceived her twins. We have no idea what the process was like to achieve her pregnancy. If she chooses to discuss it someday, it may be enlightening for some people, but she has no obligation to be an infertility ambassador. Many celebrities have openly discussed their fertility journeys – Chrissy Teigen and John Legend for example – and that’s great. But we still have a long way to go when it comes to educating the general public on the causes of infertility and treatments available.
Similarly, there is often a flurry of criticism or a rolling of the eyes when a celebrity in her late 40s conceives. It’s as though the tabloid headlines are shouting in 100 point typeface: “Why won’t she admit she used an egg donor?” While the message that the choice of egg donation was acceptable for a given celebrity may be encouraging for some women of advancing reproductive age, making the decision to conceive via egg donation is a major decision that often takes hours of heart-wrenching discussions with nurses, doctors, significant others, friends and psychologists. Seeing a story in US Weekly or In Touch magazine about a celebrity who admits to using egg donation, in my opinion, is not likely to make it easier for the individual couple facing this decision.
Another important issue that often comes up with egg and sperm donation is disclosure. Psychologists now highly recommend that parents eventually disclose to their children, in an age-appropriate manner, that they were conceived using donated sperm and/or eggs. While it’s amazingly generous for some celebrities to discuss egg donation openly in the media, shouldn’t they have the right to first reveal this information to their own children privately when they are old enough to understand?
The bottom line is each fertility journey is unique and very personal. No one should be derided for choosing to keep their journey private. So let’s leave the celebrities alone on this one – there are plenty of other things we can pick on them about.
Blog post by Dr. Eric J. Forman, MD, FACOG
Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey Morristown, NJ