When I was first diagnosed with PCOS (you can read about that here), I was told I might struggle to conceive; it might take longer than normal. Eleven years later, I found myself transitioning from the “may need some help to conceive” camp to the “infertile”. But what, exactly, is the difference between struggling and full-blown infertility?
The answer to that question, in my case at least, is time. Once a couple have actively been trying to get pregnant without success for over 12 months, they are infertile. 84% of heterosexual couples, according to the NHS, who are actively trying to conceive, achieve success within a year. And of the remaining 16% who go on to be infertile, many are blissfully unaware of any issues before they reach this milestone.
Infertility is a symptom of a number of conditions which affect the reproductive system. It can occur in either males or females. It is classed by the World Health Organisation as a disease. For many, this categorisation may seem heavy handed. When we think of diseases, typically it’s things like heart disease, cancer, diabetes. Often, these are life-limiting conditions which heavily impact the day to day lives of those who suffer from them. So I can understand those who think that infertility shouldn’t be grouped with these conditions.
Yet, I’m thankful that it is. You see, infertility is more than the ability to fall pregnant without medical intervention. Whilst many people don’t see it, infertility affects my daily life. Along with the physical symptoms of the condition that causes my infertility, I deal with day to day effects on my mental health, emotional health, our relationship, the plans that I allow myself to make, my lifestyle, friendships and my career. Most of these effects are dealt with quietly and inwardly. To the outside world, nothing is wrong. But my reality? I’m just like the swan. Gliding gracefully & serenely on the surface but furiously kicking underneath to keep myself from going under.
This is infertility. And it sucks.