What's Changed (and What Hasn't Changed) for People With Infertility in the Past 25 Years (Part 1)

Next week, April 20 -26 is National Infertility Awareness Week. In 1989, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association founded National Infertility Awareness Week. In the 25 years since then, technology has evolved and the Internet has emerged. Medical advances have been made and there is now a wealth of information about infertility, medical treatments, alternative treatments, support groups, blogs about fertility, social media, you name it, all available online. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), RESOLVE reached out to experts in the field to get their opinions about what has, and hasn't, changed for people with infertility in the past 25 years.

An Infertility Diagnosis

RESOLVE: We have found that today people recognize sooner that they may have trouble conceiving and are reaching out to an infertility specialist earlier than they did in 1989. Do you agree? What has helped aid this progress?

Patients are more knowledgeable about reproductive endocrinologists who offer more specialized care.

"1989 was just the beginning of the explosion of treatment options available for those experiencing infertility. At that time, most individuals would have depended on their OB/GYN for both diagnosis and treatment. Since then, and largely as a result of the education and advocacy mission of RESOLVE, individuals have learned about reproductive endocrinologists, IVF and related treatment options, and how to evaluate clinical outcomes." - Vicki Baldwin, President and Chief Executive Officer, In Vitro Sciences, Inc.; Senior Vice President, Women's Health USA

"While I think the process is the same, whereby they reach their diagnosis by going to a physician, I think where it has changed is that people with infertility are more likely to identify and reach out to specialized help a little quicker." - Sharon N. Covington, MSW, LCSW-C, Director, Psychological Support Services, Shady Grove Fertility

Patients now have access to home tests that help them increase understanding of their fertility and provide information to their physician.

"There have been huge advances in the use of at home technologies. For example, many women take advantage of ovulation predictor kits, done at home, to help them figure out if and when they are ovulating, and to target their most fertile times of the month to focus sexual activity. And if a woman comes to me having done several months of her own testing, I can use that information to proceed in a more focused manner with her evaluation." - Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OB/GYN, New Haven, Connecticut, and a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine

RESOLVE: Does the Internet help someone reach an infertility diagnosis sooner?

Many women use the Internet as their primary source of information.

"The Internet is an invaluable resource today -- whether it is being used to identify a support system with others who are dealing with similar experiences or as a health and medical resource. A recent survey First Response conducted with the Yale School of Medicine found that 40 percent of women today cited websites as their primary source of information. While there is a lot of valuable information on the Internet, I caution women to be careful about checking the validity of the website they're using to do their information-gathering and be aware of where the information is coming from." - Stacey Feldman, Vice President of Marketing, Women's Health, Church and Dwight, makers of First Response

"The Internet is a plus and a minus. In some ways it is full of good information, certainly the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data being available online to everybody is important and a real plus. But there is bad information on the Internet as well. It impacts patients getting care and dictates the care to the physician." - Alan H. DeCherney, MD, Chief, Reproductive Biology and Medicine Branch Director, Program in Reproductive and Adult Endocrinology, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health

"Online information has at least supplemented, if not replaced, the OB/GYN as the key source of information for patients. But as the field has grown, and with now over 400 comprehensive fertility centers nationwide, patients must sift through advertisements and misinformation to get to real information." - Vicki Baldwin, President and Chief Executive Officer, In Vitro Sciences, Inc.; Senior Vice President, Women's Health USA

Because of all the information available to patients, there is an increased need for guidance.

"The availability of counseling as part of the staff at offices where people seek infertility treatment is important to have. Someone who is an expert in all the issues a couple faces needs to be available to counsel the patients." - Howard W. Jones, Jr., MD, Professor Emeritus, Eastern Virginia Medical School; Professor Emeritus, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

"People are researching infertility much quicker and looking into it, and in some ways better able to advocate for themselves than they could at times past. Honestly, before, it was hearing about RESOLVE or a similar resource and getting information through a physician. But now information gathering is really done through the Internet, even through the different kinds of social media." - Sharon N. Covington, MSW, LCSW-C, Director, Psychological Support Services Shady Grove Fertility Reproductive Science Center

Options for Building a Family

RESOLVE: How have the options to build a family changed for people with infertility?

"Since 1989, the interest in family building through adoption has grown tremendously. The interest in domestic adoption continues to grow. In 1989, people were utilizing sperm donation. The first case of egg donation was in 1983, so in 1989 it was a process that was in its early stages. Attorneys were not yet drafting agreements. Gestational carrier cases, and petitions for legal parentage, did not exist. Since 1989, people are utilizing the whole range of third party reproduction in family building - sperm donation, egg donation, embryo donation and gestational carriers." - Peter J. Wiernicki, Esq., Partner, Joseph, Reiner & Wiernicki, P.C.

"Egg donation has exploded in popularity and with the advent of reliable egg freezing, leading to egg banks, is likely going to become an even more popular option. Traditional surrogacy has become far less popular but gestational surrogacy is used more often. PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) has enabled many couples to conceive a healthy baby. The general public is far more aware due to the fact that celebrities are openly discussing their use of a surrogate, an egg donor, both, and adoption." - Alice D. Domar, PhD, Executive Director, Domar Center for Mind/Body Health; Director of Integrative Services, Boston IVF; Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Harvard Medical School; Author, Conquering Infertility

Next up, Part 2: "Public Awareness About Infertility" and "Infertility and Public Policy." Read the full article.