Causes & Treatment

The Language of Fertility – A Manifesto for Change

Eloise Edington  |  5 Nov 2021

Fertility Help

The language we use when discussing fertility can often be loaded with unintentional bias. When infertility is discussed, a lot of the conversation of society and medical professionals can imply that women are responsible for fertility issues. Women have often reported feelings of guilt and self-blame when it comes to either difficulties conceiving or baby loss.

At Fertility Help Hub, we understand how imperative it is that we begin to re-evaluate the language we use, in order to protect the mental and emotional wellbeing of those who are struggling to conceive. Please read on to find out about a new endeavour from fertility clinic, IVI London, to improve our narrative around fertility.

Monday 1st November marked the start of National Fertility Awareness Week in the UK, as well as the launch of a bold new campaign to reform the Language of Fertility by IVI London.

Around 1 in 7 couples experience infertility and, in approximately a quarter of these cases, it is not possible to identify the cause. Despite male and female infertility factors, women, more often than men, are frequently made to feel scared, regretful and ‘to blame’ for any issues they experience in starting or adding to a family.

Whether it’s a misplaced comment from a fertility specialist or a sensationalised article in the tabloids, the language that society collectively uses to describe fertility and baby loss can have an enormous impact on how women are made to feel, on the choices they make, and on their outcomes. 

With help from five extraordinary women from the UK fertility community, IVI London is calling on the media and healthcare professionals like fertility specialists, as well as the general public, to commit to a series of pledges to change things for the better. By offering up empowering alternatives, the Language of Fertility combats the outdated words and phrases that can both directly and indirectly inflict pain on someone who is struggling to conceive.

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Thousands of women who have experienced or are currently experiencing struggles with fertility shared their stories to shape the three Language of Fertility pledges. They answered the call on social media and bravely gave their own account of an occasion when it was the language used that left them feeling broken:

“Said by a midwife at my booking-in appointment: ‘By having IVF, you’re forcing your body to do something it wasn’t meant to do’…”

“We never confirmed that pregnancy on ultrasound, so we don’t count it as a miscarriage.”

“’Well, if she was my wife, I’d throw them all in’. Referring to transferring embryos.”

“During an internal scan, a doctor saying, ‘It looks like your ovaries have shrivelled up and died’ as a way to talk about diminished ovarian reserve and the need for donor eggs.”

Many more of these real-life accounts can be found in the Language of Fertility: A Manifesto for Change, which is available to download for free here. 

The manifesto document was created by IVI London alongside UK fertility bloggers Katy Lindemann, Ruth Corden, Becky Kearns, Annabel Shepherd and Kemi Olowe. As well as pledges of fertility specialists, journalists and friends or family members of those trying to conceive, the manifesto also contains helpful advice on specific terminology to avoid, and ‘Stop Saying, Start Saying’ guides to give people alternatives to the types of words and phrases that cause the most pain.

You can download your free copy of the Language of Fertility: A Manifesto for Change and make your pledge here.

About IVI

Founded in 1990, IVI is the world’s largest medical group dedicated to assisted reproduction, with over seventy-five fertility clinics in nine countries worldwide. Its flagship UK clinic, IVI London, is located on Wimpole Street in Marylebone, Central London.

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