Interview with Pamela Madsen, Founder of the American Fertility Association

In vitro fertilization

Infertility has become a real plague in today’s society, however this crisis remains enclaved in a stong taboo. As almost one couple out of two struggles to have children, too many of them believe that they are not so many to face such an issue. We’ve met with Pamela Madsen, Fouder of the American Fertility Association. Inteview.

Your Association’s goals in a few words?

The American Fertility Association aims to provide information and support to people struggling to build a family. Although we may not always be able to solve fertility issues, we strongly believe that the first step to fight infertility is to change the culture of shame and silence that surrounds it. Too many people face infertility issues and believe they are alone on that path. It’s by sharing experiences and stories that we can help these people realizing they are not alone, and help them to fight their condition.

What are your actions against infertility?

Our main goal is to break the taboo on infertility, by sharing as widely as we can information and support to affected people and their close family members and friends. Today, the US fertility rate is at its lowest since decades, and the worldwide rate of infertility has doubled in 20 years only, and still too many people think it is a rare condition. It is not. It is much spread and represents a real plague in many countries, the US at the top of the list.

By organizing support groups and sharing patients stories and medical information, we aim to make this now common condition a reality, and not only a myth like it is still in too many minds. We want any infertile man and woman to realize they are not alone and help them cope with their condition in the best context as can be. Knowledge is the key to break the taboo, that’s why we all need to spread it as much as we can.

Why fighting infertility?

More than a simple medical condition, infertility has become today a real society issue. Even people not planning on building a family are affected by it, as it can affect their personal relationships and have an impact on their and their close family members and friends’ emotional health. Because fertility issues are more and more common, it is today crucial to spread the word that this kind of conditions are not a fatality. They need to know they are not alone and that they can find help and support whenever they need it, may it be emotionally, medically or financially.

What is infertility really?

There are two kinds of infertility. Medical infertility results from a malfunctioning genital system, but men can also experience sexual impotence, in which case their reproductive organs may be in perfectly healthy condition, but they simply do not manage to ejaculate properly. In any case, infertility is defined as a proper disease (even when the genital system is healthy), characterized by a failure to develop a clinical pregnancy after one year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.

Is sexual impotence a kind of infertility?

As we said, sexual impotence by men is also considered as a cause of infertility. Although the reproductive organs may function perfectly well, men can experience difficulties to erect and ejaculate properly. Main causes for this kind of erectile dysfunction are everyday stress and mental instability (lack of confidence, paranoia, depression…).

Sexual impotence by men can be very complex as it often creates a vicious circle: patient experiences mental instability, leading to impotence, which emphasizes his already unhealthy emotional condition. Same as infertility, sexual impotence suffers from a heavy taboo on the subject. It is important to break it and open a concrete dialogue with patients suffering from it.

What are the symptoms of infertility?

Most of the time, it is impossible to detect infertility without consulting a specialist to establish a diagnosis. Still, there are some obvious red flags that can help you identify this condition:

  • no pregnancy after several months of regular and unprotected sexual intercourse
  • unhealthy body mass index (because of a lack of hormones)
  • history of STI/D
  • miscarriage
  • by women: painful periods

What are the risk factors of infertility?

There are numerous risk factors that can lead or play a role in fertility disorder. As some are specific to male or female, other are non-gender specific.

For women

Some risk factors may affect a woman’s ability to ovulate, conceive or carry a pregnancy to term, such as:

  • excessively high or low body fat
  • chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or arthritis
  • abnormal pap smears
  • mother history of DES during pregnancy
  • hormonal unbalance leading to irregular cycles and periods
  • multiple miscarriage
  • environmental factors such a smoking, drinking and exposition to hazards or toxins
  • age (fertility decline with time)
  • history of STI/D that can lead to tubal disease
  • endometriosis, a disease leading uterine tissues to develop outside the uterus

For men

Researchers believe that today’s male fertility disorder are mainly caused by environmental factors such as:

  • exposure to toxic substances such as pesticides or other chemical substances
  • drugs and alcohol consumption
  • drugs for ulcers and psoriasis
  • DES exposure in utero
  • genital exposure to high temperatures, such as hot baths and steam rooms

But male fertility dysfunction can also be led by medical risks, including:

  • hernia repair
  • undescended testicles
  • history of prostatis and / or genital infection
  • mumps after puberty

How to fight infertility?

As reproductive organs malfunction and other purely medical fertility issues can only be treated by experts, other risks factors can be reduced in everyday life. Some good habits to take include:

  • reducing stress level and emotional overwhelming
  • avoiding chemical substances and toxic hazards
  • avoiding microwaves and electromagnetic emissions, but also radiations
  • avoiding high temperatures
  • using sexual protections to avoid STI/D
  • avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • maintaining a regular body weight

A word as a conclusion?

Well, thank you for your interest in our Association’s actions, and above all please carry on speaking loud about this common health issue that affects almost half of the population today. As I said in the first place, the first step to fight infertility is definitely to change the culture of shame and silence that surrounds it.

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