By: 19 March 2024
Dispelling myths and the social stigma surrounding IVF

IVF is a highly effective treatment option that can help couples overcome infertility and clinics should cut through any misinformation regarding stigmas against IVF

Infertility is a common problem facing many people and according to the British Fertility Society, around 15% of couples are affected by infertility. While in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the most common and effective treatment for infertility, the stigma attached to this treatment can keep patients from opting for it to avoid the emotional impact and any unwarranted judgement it can have.

Infertility affects all genders, but it might be more challenging for women, either through social or self-stigmas, which can leave them feeling devalued and therefore have a wide-ranging impact on wellbeing, social relationships, and the dynamics within their household.

“The stigma associated with IVF can reflect in a patient’s psychological attitude toward infertility and their overall quality of life,” said James Barr, Managing Director at Bridge Clinic London. “It is important that fertility clinics can provide them with support. Not only in terms of the treatment, but also emotionally and mentally to normalise IVF and reduce the negative attitudes surrounding fertility treatments.”

The World Health Organisation defines quality of life as an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns. IVF and infertility in itself can be a stressor, and without the correct support system in place, patients may experience further psychological distress.

Barr continues: “With the misconceptions surrounding IVF, a lack of understanding can perpetuate negative social stigma without considering the complex medical and emotional factors involved. This may cause patients to suffer feelings of inferiority and perceive their self-worth to be tied to traditional notions of parenthood as well as internalise a sense of inadequacy for seeking alternative medical routes.

“Individuals may find it difficult to discuss their experiences openly in fear of being ostracised and avoid social circles, especially those that place a strong emphasis on traditional family structures, to avoid uncomfortable conversations. This form of self-seclusion and reluctance to communicate with family and friends results in a weaker support system and impact the patient’s quality of life.

Normalising IVF is crucial for fostering empathy and understanding for individuals undergoing fertility treatments and this can be done by educating others about the process. Barr believes that fertility clinics play a key role in supporting patients throughout their IVF by educating and challenging taboos and stigma to help patients achieve their reproductive goals without doubts or feelings of shame.

“The stigma against IVF is a real issue and patients shouldn’t bear the brunt of such dialogues.  De-stigmatising must begin at the grassroots of the society and through methods such as public awareness campaigns and accessible information on IVF, clinics can challenge the community perceptions and cut through any misinformation, creating an inclusive environment where patients would feel valued and supported throughout the procedure.”

Barr concludes: “Patients should consult professionals who will help understand the fertility journey and clinics have the responsibility to ensure that they are duly counselled and equipped with correct information to determine the best course of action.

“By realigning expectations of parenthood and crushing the stigmas surrounding the journey of having a family through IVF, patients can feel confident and relieve negative emotions therefore, improving their quality of life.”


Source: Bridge Clinic London

Image: Canva